NJ firefighter convicted for role in $50 million prescription drug scam

An Atlantic County firefighter was convicted on Thursday for his role in a sprawling $50 million prescription fraud scheme that enlisted government and school workers to seek out unnecessary specialty drugs for conditions including pain , scars, fungal issues and libido, authorities said.

Thomas Sher, 50, of Northfield, was found guilty in Camden Federal Court of one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and three counts of healthcare fraud, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Sher forced the drug benefits administrator to pay nearly $1 million for medically unnecessary compounded prescription drugs for people they recruited into the program, the office said. He directly received about $115,000 for his role in the scheme, authorities said.

The scam, which ran from July 2014 to April 2016, resulted in millions in bribes, authorities said.

More than a dozen people were charged in March 2019 in the expanding investigation into prescriptions for compound drugs, which are made individually for patients at much higher costs, officials said.

Compound medications are made by pharmacists to meet the specific needs of each patient. Although not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the drugs still require a doctor’s prescription and are often used when a patient cannot take FDA-approved drugs. It can happen when a person is allergic to a specific ingredient.

Drugs made in Louisiana were eligible for thousands of dollars in reimbursement for a month’s supply, authorities said. Those involved in the alleged scheme learned that some in New Jersey, including local government employees, educators, firefighters, police officers and New Jersey State Police troopers had insurance that covered these specialty drugs, as do some other insurance plans.

To date, around 40 people have been convicted or pleaded guilty to the conspiracy, including Sher’s brother, John Sher, a fellow firefighter from Margate. He pleaded guilty in July to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

A spokesman for the Margate Fire Department could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday evening.

Thomas now faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or double the gross gain or loss of the offense, whichever is greater, the bureau said. He was due to be sentenced on January 10, 2023.

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Chris Sheldon can be reached at csheldon@njadvancemedia.com.

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