Diagnostic lab sales rep guilty of $4.6M fraud

Diagnostic lab sales representative Steven Monaco was convicted on 18 counts for leading a $4.6 million fraud and kickback scheme, the Justice Department said April 19.

Mr. Monaco, 40, conspired with family medicine physician Daniel Oswari, MD, to place Dr. Oswari's medical assistant on the payroll at his lab while the medical assistant continued to work for Dr. Oswari's practice. In exchange, Dr. Oswari referred all his lab work to Mr. Monaco's lab from late 2013 to 2016, the department said. Mr. Monaco received $36,000 in commissions from the lab.

Mr. Monaco also conspired with pharmaceutical sales representative Richard Zappala to pay medical professionals to sign unnecessary prescriptions for expensive compounded medications, the department said. Mr. Monaco and Mr. Zappala received a percentage of the insurance reimbursements, netting Mr. Monaco $350,000.

The Justice Department said Mr. Monaco paid Dr. Oswari and his staff to identify and prescribe the compound medications that insurance plans would reimburse. Some patients were Dr. Oswari's, and some were people he did not medically evaluate. 

Mr. Monaco also arranged for Michael Goldis, DO, and his cousin Jason Chacker, a physician assistant, to sign unnecessary prescriptions for people including members of Mr. Monaco's family, none of whom were evaluated by either clinician, the department said. 

Mr. Monaco paid Mr. Chacker with money and sports tickets, and Mr. Zappala paid Dr. Goldis cash, so that the clinicians would sign the unnecessary prescriptions, the department said. Mr. Monaco also directly paid individuals to receive prescriptions for the expensive medications.

Each sales representative and clinician in the fraud scheme has pleaded guilty to charges except for Mr. Monaco, the department said. They all await sentencing.

Mr. Monaco's main healthcare and wire fraud conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, the department said. The kickback conspiracy carries a maximum of five years in prison, and the other healthcare and wire fraud counts carry maximums of 10 years and 20 years in prison, respectively. Each count also carries a $250,000 fine or twice the gain or loss from the offense.

Mr. Monaco could be sentenced with less than the maximum penalties for his convictions. His sentencing is set for Aug. 24, the department said.

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