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Ex-Linwood pharmaceutical rep pleads in health benefits scheme

By Lynda Cohen,

2023-03-14
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A former pharmaceutical sales representative admitted to his part in defrauding state and local health benefits programs and insurers with fraudulent claims for medically unnecessary prescriptions.

Vincent Tornari, 49, of Linwood, pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud.

Tornari was charged in June 2020, along with Margate Dr. Brian Sokalsky, 44, and former advanced nurse practitioner Ashley Lyons-Valenti, 66, of Swedesboro, Gloucester County.

Lyons-Valenti pleaded guilty Feb. 28 to health care fraud conspiracy.

Tornari’s company had an agreement with a compounding pharmacy in Pennsylvania to receive 50 percent of the insurance reimbursement for prescriptions that were arranged by him and those working with him, including pharmaceutical sales representative Mark Bruno.

Tornari then paid Bruno 20 percent of that amount.

Bruno, 48, of Northfield, pleaded guilty Dec. 16, 2019, to health care fraud conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

Sokalsky allegedly agreed to prescribe the medications in exchange for cash and other remuneration.

His charges are pending with trial scheduled for April 24.

It’s alleged the doctor prescribed the medications to people Bruno paid cash to agree to receive the medications, even though those individuals did not need those medications and did not have a pre-existing doctor-patient relationship with Sokalsky. He then billed insurance plans for patient visits for the people Bruno directed to his medical practice.

Sokalsky also allegedly prescribed the medications to existing patients of his medical practice – as opposed to other medications or no medications at all – to financially benefit Tornari, Bruno and himself.

When insurance stopped covering certain formulations of the medications, Tornari and Bruno informed Sokalsky that he needed to authorize new prescriptions. Sokalsky did so, often without seeing the individual for a follow-up visit or informing the person of the change in medication, according to the allegations. The fraudulent prescriptions cost insurers more than $541,000 and Tornari personally received more than $359,000 as part of the scheme.

Tornari faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for July 25, although none of the sentencings in this case have happened when they were first scheduled.

PREVIOUS PLEAS

Robert Madonna, 36, of Florida: Former Margate mortgage consultant must forfeit $179,370. Cost: $2.1 million.

Kristie Abbott Masucci, 36, of Cedar Run: Pharmaceutical representative must forfeit amount to be determined at sentencing. Cost: $1.88 million.

James Wildman, 44, of Marmora: Ocean City schools maintenance worker, must forfeit $657,040. Cost: $4.9 million.

Corey Sutor, 37, of Ventnor: Ventnor firefighter, must forfeit $150,397.79. Cost: $2 million.

Ed Sutor Jr., 36, of Linwood: Ventnor firefighter, must forfeit 335,551.81. Cost. $2.7 million.

Brian Pugh, 45, of Absecon: running BP Med, must forfeit amount determined at sentencing. Cost $1.47 million.

Thomas Schallus, 45, of Northfield: Ventnor police officer, must forfeit amount determined at sentencing. Cost $477,958.

John Sher, 40, of Margate: Margate firefighter, received $327,897.

Christopher Broccoli, 50, of West Deptford: Received $150,315.

Ashley Lyons-Valenti, 66, of Swedesboro, Gloucester County. Advanced nurse practitioner, received more than $90,000.

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