Two New York State pharmacists were arrested Tuesday for allegedly defrauding Medicare of more than $3 million after billing the federal government for prescriptions they never filled.
"When you are seeing a small mom and pop pharmacy, or two of them in this case, billing for a lot more than they dispense there's an issue usually with that," said Tom O'Donnell, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS-OIG) Office of Inspector General/Office of Investigations' New York Regional Office which conducted the investigation and carried out the arrests.
"Where there's smoke, there's fire," he added.
Pharmacists Luba Balyasny, 46, and Alla Shrayber, 40, co-own and operate Monica's Pharmacy and L & A Pharmacy, two small store-front pharmacies in Brooklyn located less than a mile from each other.
Each woman is charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud. According to investigators, from January 2007 through December 2009, Balyasny and Shrayber systematically submitted false claims totaling 869,698 units to the Medicare Part D program through their pharmacies for medications that they did not purchase or dispense.
HHS-OIG agents searched both pharmacies Tuesday seizing more than 90 boxes containing wholesaler invoices, prescriptions, financial records Medicare correspondence and other business files. If convicted, Balyasny and Shrayber could face up to 10 years in federal prison.
CBS News called Monica's Pharmacy and L & A Pharmacy late Tuesday afternoon. Both pharmacies were open for business. The employees who answered CBS' calls said they had could not comment about the arrests and did not know whether Balyasny and Shrayber had retained lawyers. No one answered the phones at either of Balyasny's and Shrayber's homes.