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Former Brick Township Employee Sentenced to Five Years in Prison for Stealing More than $940,000 in Claims from Township Health Insurance Program


January 7,2018

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Brick Township NJ,  Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor (OIFP) announced that a former Brick Township employee today was sentenced to five years in state prison for stealing more than $940,000 from the township’s health insurance program.

Kim E. Bogan, 52, of Brick, was sentenced in accordance with a plea agreement reached when she pleaded guilty to second-degree theft by deception on October 24, 2017. She must also pay $941,354.77 in restitution to Brick Township under the terms of the plea agreement and sentence imposed by Superior Court Judge Linda G. Baxter in Ocean County.

During her plea hearing, Bogan, who worked in the township’s Building Department, admitted that between January 2011 and April 2017 she assisted an-out-of-state health care practitioner in submitting false claims to her employee health insurance program, which is self-funded by Brick Township. The claims were for treatments purportedly rendered to individuals covered under Bogan’s policy.

Bogan admitted she allowed the practitioner to submit claims on her insurance for services she knew had not been rendered and then endorsed the insurance checks when they were mailed to her, knowing the money was stolen.

“This defendant is going to prison for willingly participating in a health care claims scheme that cost Brick Township taxpayers – her own friends and neighbors – nearly a million dollars,” said Attorney General Porrino. “Her sentence sends a message that stealing money from health care plans is a serious crime with serious consequences, no matter what role you play in the illegal plot.”

“Through her illegal acts, the defendant stole taxpayer dollars meant to cover health care services for township employees. In addition to serving time in prison, she will be responsible for repaying those stolen funds,” said Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Christopher Iu. “We will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute individuals who commit these kind of health care claims crimes.”

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Ridgewood Psychiatrist License Permanently Revoked


December 9,2017

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ,  Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and the Division of Consumer Affairs today announced that the state Board of Medical Examiners (“the Board”) has permanently revoked the license of a Bergen County psychiatrist who was convicted of illegally distributing the prescription drug Adderall.

Dr. James Cowan, Jr., who practiced from a home office in Ridgewood, agreed to forfeit his license to practice medicine in a Consent Order signed immediately after he pleaded guilty in Bergen County Superior Court last week.

Cowan’s criminal conviction comes a year and a half after his medical license was temporarily suspended by the Board amid allegations he indiscriminately prescribed Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS) to patients; failed to keep proper patient records; and aided and abetted the unlicensed practice of medicine by allowing his wife to use his pre-signed prescription blanks to dispense drugs like Adderall and Xanax to his patients. Cowan has been barred from practicing since agreeing to the temporary suspension in June 2016.

“Instead of doing his part to help fight the scourge of addiction, Dr. Cowan exacerbated the problem by dispensing habit-forming drugs to patients without justification,” said Attorney General Porrino. “There is absolutely no place in the medical profession for doctors who abuse their prescription writing privileges to traffic in the illegal sale of highly restricted drugs.”

Adderall is an amphetamine used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Narcolepsy.

“Dr. Cowan’s egregious behavior breached the most fundamental standards of his profession and proved him unfit to practice,” said Sharon Joyce, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Protection. “By permanently revoking his medical license, the Board of Medical Examiners has ensured that Dr. Cowan will no longer pose a risk to his patients or the public at large.”

In May 2016, the state filed allegations that Cowan allowed his wife, a clinical social worker, to continue running his medical practice when he became too ill to work. While confined to a hospital, and then a nursing home, the 72-year-old Cowan allegedly pre-signed prescription blanks for his wife to dispense highly addicting drugs to his patients, many of whom exhibited signs of drug seeking behavior. Cowan’s wife, who was also prosecuted for her misconduct, has since died.

According to the State’s allegations, Cowan’s office manager told investigators that Cowan’s patients exhibited drug seeking behaviors and were often aggressive. Patients wandered into the upstairs private bedroom area to find Cowan, instead of waiting in the basement office area to be seen, and Cowan routinely left prescriptions for patients in an outside mailbox for after-hour pickups, according to the office manager.

Cowan agreed to the temporary suspension of his license pending further action by the Board. Under the terms of the Consent Order, Cowan was required to surrender all prescription pads, and any CDS in his possession, except for those lawfully prescribed for his own use.

On March 1, 2017, Cowan was arrested in Bergen County on charges related to the distribution of CDS.

The charges stemmed from an investigation that began in February 2016 when detectives from the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, in an undercover capacity, visited Cowan’s office, posing as new patients. During these office visits, the undercover officers received prescriptions for medications from Cowan in exchange for cash payments. The undercover detectives were not physically evaluated by Cowan or anyone else at his office, but instead were issued prescriptions for Xanax and Adderall.
On November 30, Cowan pleaded guilty to one count of knowingly or purposely distributing a controlled dangerous substance, namely Adderall; a third degree crime.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Cowan was required to permanently forfeit his license to practice medicine. The state will recommend that Cowan be sentenced to non-custodial probation for a term to be determined by a judge when Cowan is sentenced on January 12, 2018.

Patients who believe that they have been treated by a licensed health care professional in an inappropriate manner can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504- 6200.


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Satin Dolls club the fictional “Bada Bing” in the HBO television series “The Sopranos” licenses suspended Due to Alledged Mob Ties

1bada bing

December 8,2017

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Lodi NJ,  Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and the Division of Alcohol Beverage Control have ordered the liquor licenses of two North Jersey “gentleman’s clubs” to be sold or transferred to a bona fide third party by January 3, 2018, because of alleged noncompliance with a previous Consent Order.
The two clubs, Satin Dolls in Lodi and A.J.’s Gentleman’s Club in Secaucus, have until December 17, 2017 to cease providing live entertainment. The Satin Dolls club served as the fictional “Bada Bing” in the HBO television series “The Sopranos.” If live entertainment is provided after that date, the licenses will be suspended immediately and the owners will be subject to potential disciplinary charges.

The two clubs and their owners have been the subject of investigation and legal proceedings initiated by the Division for more than six years, during which the owners, various members of the Cardinalle family, sought to retain ownership of the licenses and continue to operate the businesses.

The Division has alleged that Anthony Cardinalle, who was criminally disqualified from maintaining involvement with the clubs’ operations, nonetheless continued to run the businesses. The Division also alleges that the owners failed to account for large amounts of cash flowing in and out of the businesses.
Under an order signed by Director David P. Rible on November 20, 2017, the Cardinalles’ involvement with the clubs must end.

“The Cardinalles may have wanted to keep the business in the family, but that’s not how it works. Their continued flouting of Alcoholic Beverage Control laws cannot and will not be tolerated,” said Attorney General Porrino. “Illegal activity was glorified at the ‘Bada Bing’ in the fictional world of Tony Soprano, but it has no place in modern-day New Jersey It’s time to shut it down.”

In 2011, a Consent Order with the companies Route 17 Entertainment Inc. (Satin Dolls) and Sea-Card Enterprises Inc. (A.J’s Gentleman’s Club) mandated that Luceen Cardinalle, the wife of Anthony who was listed as the sole shareholder of both corporations, turn over the licenses to her daughter, Loren Cardinalle. The Cardinalles were ordered to pay $1.25 million in penalties as a compromise in lieu of revocation of both licenses, and Loren Cardinalle was ordered to transfer both licenses to a bona fide third party by December 31, 2015.

“The holding of licenses to sell and serve alcohol is contingent upon the owners’ behaving in a reputable manner,” said Director Rible. “The Cardinalles, quite simply, have not played by the rules despite many opportunities to correct their behavior, and it’s time to get them out of the alcohol business once and for all.”
Anthony Cardinalle pled guilty in 1995 to federal income tax evasion for not reporting cash payments from “gentleman’s clubs” in which he held undisclosed interests. During the Division’s investigation, evidence was uncovered that Anthony Cardinalle was still actively involved with running the clubs.

Anthony Cardinalle was subsequently indicted by the federal government in January 2013 for participating in a conspiracy by the Genovese crime family related to the waste-disposal industry in New Jersey and New York. He pled guilty in December 2013 to racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to commit extortion and was ordered to spend 30 days in jail and pay a fine and restitution.

As the 2015 Consent Order deadline approached, Loren Cardinalle asked the Division for permission to continue to hold the licenses. A series of extensions were granted, with the latest deadline set for September 28, 2017. After further investigation, the Division issued a Notice of Charges for criminal solicitation for prostitution and lewd activity on the licensed premises in May 2017. Those charges remain pending.

The Division continues to allege that Anthony Cardinalle is involved with the operation of the clubs, citing the following as evidence:
The Lodi Police Department advised the Division that Anthony Cardinalle has been the contact person for issues with the Satin Dolls license.
When police were called to the club because of a report of an attempted burglary, Anthony Cardinalle was the club representative dealing with the matter.
The Attorney General thanked the Division’s Investigation Unit for its work on this matter.

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Former Democrat mayor of Paterson, N.J, was sentenced to 5 Years in prison

Senator Bob Menendez, Nellie Pou, and Jose "Joey" Torres

photo Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr.,Senator Bob Menendez, Nellie Pou, and Jose “Joey” Torres.

November 15,2017

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Paterson NJ,  Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced that Jose “Joey” Torres, the former mayor of Paterson, N.J, was sentenced to prison today for directing that city employees perform work at a private warehouse leased by his daughter and nephew while the employees were being paid by the city. Three former supervisors in the Paterson Department of Public Works also were sentenced today.

Torres, 59, of Paterson, N.J., was sentenced today to five years in state prison by Superior Court Judge Sheila Venable in Hudson County. Torres pleaded guilty on Sept. 22 to a charge of second-degree conspiracy to commit official misconduct. As a result of his guilty plea, he forfeited his position as mayor and is permanently barred from public office and public employment in New Jersey. He is jointly and severally liable with his co-defendants for paying restitution of $10,000 to the City of Paterson for payments, including overtime payments, made to city workers for the time they spent working at the private warehouse.

The following three co-defendants pleaded guilty on Sept. 22 to third-degree conspiracy charges and each was sentenced today by Judge Venable to a three-year term of probation:

Joseph Mania, 51, of Randolph, N.J., Supervisor, Paterson DPW Facilities Division;
Imad Mowaswes, 53, of Clifton, N.J., Supervisor, Paterson DPW Traffic Division; and
Timothy Hanlon, 31, of Woodland Park, N.J., Assistant Supervisor, Paterson DPW Facilities Division.

Those men also forfeited their jobs with the city and are permanently barred from public employment.

Deputy Bureau Chief Jeffrey Manis and Deputy Attorneys General Cynthia Vazquez and Peter Baker prosecuted the case and handled the sentencing for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. The defendants were indicted in an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau and the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption Bureau North Squad.

“Joey Torres corruptly used his vast power as mayor of New Jersey’s third-largest city to serve his own selfish ends, when he should have been serving the residents of Paterson,” said Attorney General Porrino. “Torres thought he was above the law and is now on his way to prison. This prison sentence demonstrates that nobody is above the law, least of all public officials who brazenly abuse the authority entrusted to them.”

“By unlawfully using on-the-clock city workers to assist with a family business, Mayor Torres put his own interests ahead of the interests of city residents and compromised the integrity of his office,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Public corruption takes many forms, but it always has the corrosive impact of undermining good government and public trust. We will continue to make these cases a top priority.”

“Torres betrayed many staff and colleagues who unknowingly believed in him, but his betrayal of the residents of Paterson, whom he was entrusted to serve, is by far the worst of all,” said Colonel Patrick Callahan, Acting Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “I commend the State Police Official Corruption North Bureau and their partners for bringing justice to the people of Paterson.”

The investigation revealed that, at Mayor Torres’ behest and under his supervision, Mania, Mowaswes and Hanlon performed work and/or assigned subordinate employees of the Department of Public Works (DPW) to perform work at a private warehouse facility at 82 East 15th St. in Paterson. The facility was leased by “Quality Beer,” a limited liability company formed by Torres’ daughter and his nephew. The tasks performed by the DPW workers included renovation, painting, carpentry, and electrical work. The work was performed on various dates between July 2014 and April 2015, while the three supervisors and other DPW workers were “on the clock” working for and being paid by the City of Paterson. The daughter and nephew intended to use the warehouse as a wholesale liquor distribution facility, but they ultimately terminated the lease after failing to obtain the necessary permits and license from the state.

The investigation further revealed that Mania, in his capacity as a DPW supervisor, caused false time-keeping records to be submitted to the city, including overtime verification forms and bi-weekly timesheets. These records falsely stated that Mania and other DPW employees were working overtime details on legitimate city projects, when, in fact, Mania knew that he and the other employees spent at least part of these overtime shifts working at the private warehouse. By submitting and signing off on these timekeeping records and authorizing the overtime details, Mania caused the city to make overtime payments to himself and other employees for hours spent performing private work for the mayor and his relatives, with no connection to any legitimate city business. Mania’s co-defendants, including the mayor, also were charged with falsifying these records as accomplices and co-conspirators.

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New Jersey Election Safeguards Deputy Attorneys General to be On Duty in All 21 Counties

Vote Ridgewood NJ

file photo by Dana Glazer

November 7,2017
the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Trenton NJ,  Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced today that approximately 250 Deputy Attorneys General (DAsG) will be assigned throughout the state on Election Day, November 7, to help ensure a fair and smooth-running election, and to assist county election officials in resolving any voting-related legal issues that may arise.

According to Porrino,  DAsG from the Division of Law will be stationed in each of the state’s 21 counties to handle any court applications, and to provide timely legal advice to County Superintendents of Election and Boards of Election. The DAsG will be on duty from the time the polls open until they close.

“By having DAsG on duty in every county, we are helping to ensure the integrity of the election process by protecting peoples’ right to vote, and by facilitating the prompt — and fair — resolution of any voting-related legal issues that may emerge,” said the Attorney General.

Porrino explained it is a criminal offense to solicit or electioneer voters within a “protective zone” as they enter or exit a polling location. The “protective zone” extends 100 feet from the outside entrance of any polling site. Attempts to interfere with voters within this zone are usually handled by law enforcement officers from the appropriate agency.

According to Porrino, any person who believes his or her right to vote has been  interfered with, or who wishes to report other voting-related problems or concerns, should contact the state’s hotline at 1-877-NJVOTER.

Members of the public also can direct election-related questions to their County Superintendent of Elections and county Board of Elections. A list of county-level election office contacts, as well as other useful elections-related information, can be found on the New Jersey Division of Elections Web site at

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NJ Attorney General Sues Purdue Pharma Alleging Scheme to “Mainstream” Addictive Opioids for Profit



November 1,2017
the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Trenton NJ,  Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced today that the State has filed a five-count lawsuit against Purdue Pharma L.P. alleging a “direct” link between New Jersey’s opioid crisis and a push by Purdue to boost profits by deceptively marketing addictive medications and exploiting vulnerable new markets, such as the elderly and the “opioid-naïve.” The lawsuit charges Purdue with widespread deception about the risks and benefits of these dangerously addictive pain medications.

“When we point the finger of blame for the deadly epidemic that has killed thousands in New Jersey, Purdue is in the bullseye of the target,” said Attorney General Porrino. “Today, my office took the first step toward holding them legally and financially responsible for their deception.”

Filed today in Superior Court in Essex County, the State’s 100-page complaint charges that Purdue manipulated the public and even the medical community to embrace the view that pain was undertreated and that opioids should be the first-line solution for patients suffering from chronic conditions such as moderate back pain, migraine headaches and arthritis. The complaint alleges that Purdue aggressively marketed its blockbuster opioid drugs – particularly OxyContin – as safe, effective, long-term treatments for chronic pain. It also alleges Purdue failed to disclose that it had no studies to support the efficacy or safety of opioid medications for treatment periods longer than 12 weeks.

“In a campaign of almost inconceivable callousness and irresponsibility, we allege that Purdue has spent hundreds of millions of marketing dollars to downplay the addiction risk associated with taking opioids for chronic pain, all the while exaggerating the benefits of using these dangerous drugs,” Porrino said. “We allege that this fraudulent conduct has not only given false hope to many pain patients, it has led to addiction, overdose, and death. It also has cost the State hundreds of millions on opioid prescriptions and the broader health and social effects of overprescribing. Many of these prescriptions never should have been written.”

The State’s investigation yielded evidence that each Purdue sales representative in New Jersey was required to visit 7-8 doctors per day, 5 days a week, to promote these opioids. The highest volume prescribers were given the title of “Super Core Prescribers,” and received special attention from Purdue. Sales representatives were compensated based on reaching their “Rx quota” for each drug. For OxyContin alone, the quotas were in the range of 500-700 prescriptions per month for each sales representative – amounting to quotas of 6,000-8,400 prescriptions per year for each sales representative. Attorney General Porrino noted, “The sheer number of marketing visits made by Purdue sales representatives to New Jersey prescribers is staggering – and based on the number of prescriptions, the scheme clearly was a smashing success for the company.”

Purdue makes and sells a variety of opioid pain medications including Dilaudid, Dilaudid HP, Butrans and Hysingla ER. However, the company’s most popular opioid pain medication by far is OxyContin. Since the market debut of OxyContin in 1996, Purdue has generated overall sales estimated at more than $35 billion. The company’s current annual revenues are estimated at approximately $3 billion, mostly from the sale of OxyContin.

According to the complaint, the State’s largest Medicaid managed care organization has paid $109 million for opioids through the Medicaid program since 2008, the State paid another $6 million under its Workers’ Compensation Program since 2008, and approximately $136 million under its State Employee and Retiree Health Plan since 2012. Meanwhile, New Jersey consumers – including individuals, employers and private insurers – easily have paid hundreds of millions for opioid prescriptions. In addition to these costs, the State and private consumers have paid millions of dollars to treat addiction, overdose and other injuries associated with opioid overprescribing and misuse.

The State’s complaint seeks monetary damages for false claims, maximum statutory penalties under the Consumer Fraud Act and the False Claims Act, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains and other relief as contribution for the expensive solutions — including addiction treatment and prescriber education — which are necessary to abate the crisis in New Jersey.

“Prescribing opioids for routine chronic pain is dangerous and, in many cases, inappropriate,” said Attorney General Porrino. “However, in New Jersey and across the nation it became mainstream medical practice and the treatment of first resort. How did that happen? It happened because certain companies within the pharmaceutical industry saw a chance to grow their profits by peddling extraordinarily potent, highly-addictive opioid drugs for routine pain. We allege that Purdue Pharma was chief among these opportunistic and predatory companies.”

According to the State’s complaint, Purdue’s campaign to change the health care landscape with regard to opioids began in the late 1990s. Prior to that, the lawsuit notes, opioids were used on a much more limited basis – to treat acute trauma-related pain, post-surgical pain or for palliative care – because the drugs were considered too addictive and debilitating for long-term use. Faced with a medical and popular understanding of opioids that constrained its market, the complaint alleges that Purdue aggressively set out to change the image of opioids by encouraging prescribers to believe the drugs would permanently reduce pain in chronic pain patients and improve their function, with little or no addiction risk.

The complaint alleges that part of Purdue’s push to mainstream opioids was aided by Dr. Russell Portenoy, a pain management specialist who received “substantial” funding from Purdue to conduct research, and was paid to serve as a Purdue consultant. In the late 1990s, the State’s complaint notes that Portenoy led a successful campaign in the national medical community to make pain “the fifth vital sign” — to be checked in every health care encounter – putting it on par with measuring blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature and breathing. Purdue’s early marketing of OxyContin lead to criminal fraud charges against the company and its executives, charges that Purdue paid more than $600 million to settle with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2007. But Purdue built upon those foundational deceptions, and continued deceptive and unconscionable marketing from 2007 through the present.

Among other actions in the 2007-2017 timeframe, the complaint charges that Purdue:

Blanketed the State with sales representatives trained to emphasize the benefits of opioids, minimize their risks, deflect questions about addiction risks, and encourage doctors to consult unbranded websites and materials that did the same.

Funded and created “unbranded” educational materials and websites that never identified Purdue or its products by name because they were deceptively designed to look like the work of unaffiliated patient advocacy groups. These unbranded materials magnified and supported Purdue’s deceptive marketing scheme.

Promoted the unsubstantiated concept of “pseudoaddiction” to assure doctors that patients showing signs of addiction were actually suffering from undertreated pain and needed more medication.

Promoted its 2010 “abuse-deterrent” reformulation of OxyContin by distributing and recommending materials that misleadingly described the signs of abuse as the stigmata of injecting or snorting opioids—skin popping, track marks, and perforated nasal septa – when, in fact, oral use (swallowing a pill) is the most common method of abuse and was not minimized by the 2010 “abuse-deterrent” reformulation.

Refused to acknowledge that OxyContin ER does not provide 12 hours of constant pain relief, despite widely reported end-of-dose failure. Instead, Purdue recommended that doctors prescribe patients with end-of-dose supplemental opioids for short-term relief and higher doses of OxyContin ER, putting patients in a perpetual cycle of craving their medication and at greater risk for addiction.

Ignored a growing body of research showing that long-term use of opioids was neither safe nor effective.

The company also trained its sales representatives to persuade doctors to prescribe OxyContin and Purdue’s other opioids for the elderly and for “opioid naïve” patients (patients who had not previously taken opioids). The complaint alleges that “Purdue’s decisions to target the elderly and opioid-naïve patients reflect, yet again, a business strategy that placed little, if any, value on the well-being and safety of consumers. Elderly patients taking opioids are at greater risk for fracture and hospitalization, and they have increased vulnerability to adverse drug effects such as respiratory depression.”

A Purdue sales representative interviewed by the State recalled intense pressure from Purdue to persuade doctors to convert patients from over-the-counter medications – such as Advil or Tylenol – to a “low dose” of OxyContin. Purdue knew, however, that chronic pain patients don’t stay on a “low dose” of OxyContin – as their bodies develop a tolerance to the drug, the dosage will likely be increased. In fact, Purdue’s marketing scheme included a focus on “titrating up” – the technical word for increasing a patient’s opioid dosage.

“This conduct was incredibly exploitative and put people in danger. As we allege in our complaint, Purdue targeted New Jersey seniors and the opioid-naïve for a reason – they were a growth sector,” Attorney General Porrino said.

Porrino noted that, according to the State’s complaint, “one in three” enrollees in Medicare Part D (the prescription benefit) received at least one opioid prescription in 2016.

The State’s lawsuit notes that recent findings by both the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the national Centers for Disease Control (CDC) directly debunk Purdue’s claims about the efficacy and limited risks associated with opioids.

The CDC has confirmed there are no controlled studies about the use of opioids beyond 12 weeks, and the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has made plain “there is no evidence that opioids improve patients’ pain and function long-term.”

The State’s lawsuit contends that such information clearly contradicts Purdue’s claim that long-term use of opioids improves function and quality of life. The lawsuit also asserts that, according to some research, opioids actually are ineffective at treating chronic pain, and can worsen a patient’s health not only by putting the patient at risk for addiction and overdose, but also by increasing the likelihood of other debilitating conditions, such as substance abuse, depression, and anxiety.

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New Jersey Releases Annual Statistics on Cyber Breaches for the First Time

snowden cyber

October 31,2017
the staff of the Ridgewood blog


Trenton NJ,  Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and the New Jersey State Police  announced that 676 data breaches were reported to the State Police in 2016 affecting more than 116,000 New Jersey account holders. October is National Cybersecurity Month, and the announcement – the first release of annual statistics on data breaches in the state – was made as New Jersey offered advice and resources to residents to protect their sensitive personal information. The Attorney General’s Office also highlighted legal actions taken this year by the Division of Law and Division of Consumer Affairs to address data breaches.

“Doing business online and on our devices has become so routine that it’s easy to let our guard down. But as these statistics on data breaches highlight, it’s critical that we protect our sensitive personal information from the many who seek to access it for harmful ends,” said Attorney General Christopher Porrino. “The internet touches almost all aspects of our daily life, whether we realize it or not, and Cyber Security Awareness Month is a good time to examine whether our accounts are secure. I urge everyone to take advantage of the great resources New Jersey offers in this area.”

To assist in tackling these security challenges, the New Jersey Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Cell (NJCCIC) acts as the state’s one-stop shop for cybersecurity information sharing, threat analysis, and incident reporting. Located at the State Police Regional Operations Intelligence Center (ROIC), the NJCCIC brings together analysts and engineers to promote statewide awareness of cyber threats and widespread adoption of best practices.

“Our mission is to help make NJ more resilient to cyber attacks. We encourage all NJ residents and businesses to reach out to the NJCCIC for advice, to subscribe to our alerts, and to report incidents via our website –,” said Michael Geraghty, Director of the NJCCIC.

“The statistics compiled present a sobering picture of the challenges that face us when it comes to cyber security,” said Sharon Joyce, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “We urge citizens to use the resources available through the Division of Consumer Affairs in order to protect themselves and their loved ones from identity theft and other forms of cybercrime. In addition, the Division remains committed to protecting consumers from those companies that fail to safeguard or improperly gather personal information.”

The information released by the Attorney General’s Office and the State Police details data breaches in New Jersey occurring in 2016. Data breaches involve the unauthorized access to personal information, which may include a person’s first and last name linked with a social security number, driver’s license number, or account, debit, or credit card number. Under New Jersey law, any business that operates in New Jersey or any public entity that compiles or maintains computerized records that include personal information must disclose any breach of security to customers who are New Jersey residents and whose personal information was or believed to have been accessed by an unauthorized person.

The business sectors most often involved with breaches include finance/banking, health services followed by business services and retail trade. Other areas include education, restaurant, industrial/manufacturing, hotels, non-profits, non-medical insurance, and telecommunications, among others.

The methods used to breach security were led by phishing, a form of fraud in which the attacker tries to learn information such as login credentials or account information by masquerading as a reputable entity or person in email, instant message or other communication channels, and hacking. Website malware, employee incident, unauthorized email access and ransomware were also utilized.

The Division of Consumer Affairs offers the following Tips to Consumers:

Avoid clicking on e-mail links or attachments from unknown individuals, financial institutions, computer services or government agencies. To check out the message, go to the sender’s legitimate public website, and use the contact information provided.

Adjust device privacy settings to control sharing of data between applications, software and address books.

Choose a strong password containing letters, numbers and symbols. If a website offers two-factor authentication security, use it.

To protect your device from unauthorized access and malware software, install security software, often available from your internet provider, and ensure that firewall and anti-virus protections are updated continually.

Before disposing of any electronic device, wipe the hard drive using specialized software that will overwrite your information; or donate the device to a certified recycling facility that follows government standards for the destruction of data.

Avoid free Wi-Fi, especially for health, financial, and other personal transactions.

Before giving up your personal information to win a contest or participate in a survey, read the “Terms and Conditions” and “Privacy Policy” within the website or app. These sections should clearly lay out how the website will use and share your information.

Under federal law, consumers can get three free credit reports per year through New Jersey law entitles consumers to an additional three free credit reports annually – one from each of the national credit reporting agencies. Scrupulous checking of credit reports, bank and credit card statements, and subscription services can catch identity theft at its earliest stages.

Parents can report concerns about websites directed to children to the Division of Consumer Affairs, which enforces the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Parents should take advantage of parental control software offered by their internet service provider, adjust browser settings to limit children’s access, and review history logs to monitor usage.

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Attorney General Porrino Charges Mahwah Township Council with Discrimination against Orthodox Jews

Eruv Derek Michalski

Eruv , photo by Derek Michalski

October 25,2017
the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Mahwah NJ,  Likening the conduct of Mahwah township officials to 1950s-era “white flight” suburbanites who sought to keep African-Americans from moving into their neighborhoods, Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced today that the State has filed a Superior Court complaint against the Mahwah Township Council and the Township of Mahwah alleging that, in an effort to stave off a feared influx of Orthodox Jewish persons from outside New Jersey, it approved two unlawfully discriminatory ordinances.

One of those ordinances discriminated by banning non-New-Jersey-residents from using Mahwah’s public parks, the State alleges. The other – an ordinance amendment – discriminated by effectively banning the posting, on utility poles, of plastic strips called “lechis” that denote the boundaries of an eruv used by Sabbath-observant Orthodox Jews. The complaint also challenges actions the township has taken to have an existing eruv removed.

Filed in Superior Court in Bergen County, the State’s nine-count complaint is filed on behalf of Attorney General Porrino, the Division on Civil Rights, Commissioner Bob Martin and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). It charges that the township council, influenced largely by vocal anti-Orthodox-Jewish sentiment expressed by some residents at public meetings and on social media, engaged in unlawful discrimination aimed at halting an unwanted “infiltration” by Orthodox Jews – particularly from neighboring Rockland County, NY.

In addition to charging discrimination, the State’s complaint notes that Mahwah Township has applied for and received more than $3.4 million in DEP Green Acres grants – money the lawsuit filed today seeks to reclaim – for purchase and maintenance of its parks, and that Mahwah’s ordinance banning non-New-Jersey residents from using those parks is a direct breach of its Green Acres funding contracts.

“In addition to being on the wrong side of history, the conduct of Mahwah’s township council is legally wrong, and we intend to hold them accountable for it,” said Attorney General Porrino. “To think that there are local governments here in New Jersey, in 2017, making laws on the basis of some archaic, fear-driven and discriminatory mindset, is deeply disappointing and shocking to many, but it is exactly what we are alleging in this case. Of course, in this case we allege the target of the small-minded bias is not African-Americans, but Orthodox Jews. Nonetheless, the hateful message is the same.”

DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said it is “regrettable” that Mahwah appears to have made a concerted effort to block non-New-Jersey- residents from using its public parks, which are subject to Green Acres restrictions as a condition of Green Acres funding to Mahwah.

Martin noted that, as the State lawsuit filed today makes plain, the Green Acres Act provides that use of any lands acquired under the program is not to be restricted on the basis of religion or residency.

“The Green Acres Program was created in 1961 and envisioned as a way to meet the recreation and conservation needs of our growing state. It was intended to ensure that in the future, there would always be plenty of open spaces across New Jersey for people – all people – to enjoy,” said Martin. “What’s been happening in Mahwah with respect to the township’s parks ordinance is not in accordance with the original intent of the Green Acres Program. As such, it is unacceptable, and it cannot be allowed to stand.”

Attorney General Porrino said Mahwah’s council members should be setting a better example than to entertain – and act under the influence of – public comments rife with hate and bias.

“Our public officials are sworn to respect and uphold the rule of law, to set an example and represent all citizens – not just those with the loudest voices,” said Porrino. “No person should need to hide his or her religious faith to live, work, or enjoy a local park. Likewise, local government should not be interfering with the exercise of religious freedom, as we allege Mahwah has attempted to do with its ordinance amendment effectively banning eruv markings. Through our lawsuit, we seek to have these illegal, bias-driven actions nullified.”

In addition to seeking statutory penalties and attorney’s fees and costs, the complaint seeks return of all Green Acres funding awarded Mahwah. It also asks the Court to grant preliminary and permanent injunctions blocking the two Mahwah ordinances alleged to be discriminatory.

The State’s complaint explains that an eruv is a designated geographical area within which Jews who hold certain religious beliefs may push or carry objects – such as a stroller, wheelchair, keys or identification – during the Sabbath (Friday evening to Saturday evening) and during the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

For those who hold these beliefs, the complaint notes, the act of pushing or carrying objects on the Sabbath or Yom Kippur is permitted only inside the home or within the confines of a properly established eruv. An eruv is commonly created by affixing thin plastic strips known as lechis to utility poles to mark the boundaries of the area.

In 2015, the Bergen Rockland Eruv Association sought to extend an existing eruv in Rockland County, NY, to cover the full southern part of Rockland County. The proposed path of the extension included areas within a portion of Mahwah Township near the New York border.

The State’s complaint alleges that, despite approval of the posting of lechis on its utility poles in Mahwah by Orange & Rockland Utilities – and despite the township having struck a formal agreement to ensure security and traffic control by Mahwah Police in May 2017 while the posting work went on – the township council forged ahead in July 2017 and approved an illegal amendment to its sign ordinance effectively banning lechis on utility poles.

As amended, the sign ordinance – which previously banned simply “signs” on utility poles – now included expanded language prohibiting the posting of “any … device or other matter” on a utility pole, shade tree, lamp post, curbstone, sidewalk, or upon any public structure or building in Mahwah.

A month after initiating efforts to amend the sign ordinance language, the council voted to authorize Mahwah’s zoning officer to issue summonses against the Bergen Rockland Eruv Association for violating the existing ordinance. The State’s lawsuit observes that, prior to the sign ordinance being amended, the Eruv Association had worked cooperatively with Orange & Rockland Utilities, the Mahwah township administration and the Mahwah police department in creating the eruv.

With respect to the ordinance banning non-New-Jersey-residents from Mahwah parks, the State’s complaint alleges that on June 8, 2017, all seven township council members voted in favor of the measure upon its introduction.

At a subsequent public hearing on the ordinance – on June 29, 2017 – the council members heard comments from members of the public in attendance, and also received comments from residents by way of e-mail and social media.

The complaint notes that many of the public comments offered were “overtly anti-Semitic” in nature, and that around the same time, Mahwah Police began receiving “multiple calls” from residents reporting that people who appeared to be Orthodox Jews were using the parks, although the callers did not allege any problematic conduct.

The complaint also notes that, upon approving the parks ordinance, the township created proposed signs for posting in its parks explaining that the facilities were only open to New Jersey residents, but including such disclaimers as “GUESTS OF A RESIDENT ARE PERMITTED USE” and “EMPLOYEES OF LOCAL BUSINESSES ARE PERMITTED USE.”

In addition, the State’s lawsuit recounts that, in an e-mail sent to Council President Robert Hermansen, a Mahwah resident who is not of Orthodox Jewish faith expressed concern that her mother – a New York resident – would not be able to take her grandchildren to Mahwah’s parks. Allegedly, the council president replied that the grandmother had nothing to worry about, and that the ordinance banning non-New-Jersey residents from Mahwah’s parks was not intended to address her situation.

Among other things, the complaint filed today alleges – in separate counts – that the Mahwah parks ordinance and the amended sign ordinance represent abuses of municipal power by the Mahwah township council, in violation of the First, Fourth and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

For example, the lawsuit contends, enforcement of the ban on non-New-Jersey residents using Mahwah parks would inevitably require Constitutional over-reach by Mahwah police officers seeking to determine if an individual observed using the park resided in Mahwah. Specifically, the complaint contends, police officers – absent evidence of any suspicious or unlawful conduct by the park user — would have to approach the person and require him or her to provide appropriate documentation in order to remain in the park.

“Each instance of enforcing the (parks) ordinance will subject affected persons to an unreasonable search,” the complaint asserts.

Also, in addition to counts alleging that Mahwah’s amended sign ordinance banning eruvs is unconstitutional, the complaint charges that it is tantamount to housing discrimination.

Specifically, the complaint says, a ban on eruvs – or threats of being issued summonses and fines for not removing the lechis that demarcate eruvs – would interfere with the ability of observant Orthodox Jews to live in Mahwah, thereby denying them housing on the basis of religion.

“This is an extensive complaint that lays out a variety of serious allegations and a number of legal theories, but the bottom line is very simple – the township council in Mahwah heard the angry, fear-driven voices of bigotry and acted to appease those voices,” said Attorney General Porrino.

“Our duty is to uphold the law, even when the fight might be unpopular and regardless of whether we have the winds of protest or political favor at our backs,” Porrino said. “Our message to those public officials in Mahwah who are leading or following this misguided charge is meant to be loud and clear: We intend to hold you accountable. Our message to local officials in other towns who may be plotting to engage in similar attempts to illegally exclude, is the same: We will hold you accountable as well.”

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Five defendants Plead Guilty of Human Trafficking and Prostitution Out of South Hackensack Motel


October 17,2017

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

South Hackensack NJ, Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced that a Newark man pleaded guilty today to a first-degree human trafficking charge for trafficking a girl, 16, from New York to New Jersey and making her work as a prostitute in the prostitution ring he ran, which advertised on

Glen Bowman Sr., 42, of Newark, N.J., pleaded guilty today to first-degree conspiracy to commit human trafficking before Superior Court Judge Robert M. Vinci in Bergen County.  Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Bowman be sentenced to 13 years in state prison, including five years of parole ineligibility.  Bowman ran the prostitution ring with his wife, Ernestine Bowman, 33, of Orange, N.J.  Ernestine Bowman pleaded guilty in December 2016 to second-degree facilitating human trafficking.  She is awaiting sentencing and faces a recommended sentence of 10 years in prison, with 39 months of parole ineligibility.

Deputy Attorneys General Brandy Malfitano and Jamie Picard are prosecuting the case, and Malfitano took the guilty plea today for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, Human Trafficking Unit.

Five defendants were indicted in April 2015, and all have pleaded guilty, as a result of an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice and the South Hackensack Police Department.  The defendants were charged with conspiring to traffic the 16-year-old from Brooklyn, N.Y., to make her work as a prostitute at motels in South Hackensack and Clifton, N.J.  The couple’s son, Glen Bowman Jr., 23, of Brooklyn, N.Y., pleaded guilty to second-degree conspiracy to promote prostitution and faces a recommended sentence of seven years in prison.  Jessica Copeland, 29, of Newark, N.J. – who acted as boss or “bottom” over the prostitutes in the ring – pleaded guilty to second-degree facilitating human trafficking and faces a recommend sentence of six years in prison, including three years of parole ineligibility.  Tokina Williams, 33, of Raleigh, N.C., pleaded guilty to second-degree promoting prostitution.

Sentencing for Glen Bowman Sr. is scheduled for Nov. 14.  The other defendants, with the exception of Williams, are scheduled for sentencing on Oct. 25.

“This man threatened to beat the 16-year-old victim if she didn’t follow his orders and perform to his expectations for clients of his prostitution ring,” said Attorney General Porrino. “This plea will ensure that Bowman serves a lengthy sentence behind bars, where he can no longer subject young women and children to an unspeakable life of brutality and sexual slavery.  I commend the South Hackensack Police and our attorneys for rescuing the victim and bringing those responsible to justice.”

“Our Human Trafficking Unit will continue to collaborate with other law enforcement agencies to apprehend and convict human traffickers,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice.  “Human traffickers typically isolate their victims and remove them from any support system, so it is critical that members of the public notify us if they see a young woman or child in questionable circumstances.  We will move swiftly to investigate and save victims like the teenage girl in this case.”

Attorney General Porrino and Director Honig urged anyone who suspects that individuals are engaged in sex- or labor-related human trafficking to confidentially report such activity by calling the Division of Criminal Justice’s 24-hour NJ Human Trafficking Hotline 855-END-NJ-HT (855-363-6548).

“Our department has been committed to conducting these undercover operations to flush out the criminality of prostitution and narcotics in our motels,” said Chief Joseph Terraccino of the South Hackensack Police Department.  “We remain committed to rescuing these victims from the underworld and arresting the predators who are responsible.”

Deputy Attorneys General Malfitano and Picard are prosecuting the case for the Division of Criminal Justice Human Trafficking Unit, within the Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Annmarie Taggart and Bureau Chief Lauren Scarpa Yfantis.  The investigation was conducted for the Division of Criminal Justice by Detective Timothy Savage, Sgt. Noelle Holl, Lt. Lisa Cawley and the other detectives in the Human Trafficking Unit.  Attorney General Porrino thanked the South Hackensack Police Department, under the leadership of Chief Joseph Terraccino, for their investigation and referral.  Capt. Robert Kaiser, Lt. Robert Chinchar and Detective James Donatello led the investigation for the South Hackensack Police Department.

The investigation began as an undercover operation by the South Hackensack Police Department targeting a prostitution ring that advertised on  Such rings typically offer “escort services” and display nude or semi-nude photos of young women.  An undercover officer responded to an advertisement that included a photo of a very young-looking female with her breasts exposed.  The officer phoned the number in the ad on Oct. 1, 2014, and a woman told him that he could have “full sex” for $160 cash at a motel on Route 46 in South Hackensack.

The undercover officer was directed to a room, where a teenage girl answered the door.  She repeated that the price of “full sex” was $160 and accepted $160 cash from the undercover officer.  He asked why the bathroom door was closed and learned there was a woman in the bathroom, who turned out to be Tokina Williams.  The teenage girl invited Williams to come out and told her that the client had paid to have sex with both of them.  At that time, backup officers entered and arrested Williams and the teenage girl.  The teenage girl was determined to be a 16-year-old who was reported missing out of New York State.  She was the young female whose breasts were exposed in the photo in the ad on

Further investigation revealed that the defendants had conspired to lure the 16-year-old victim into a life of prostitution.  The victim met Glen Bowman Jr., in Brooklyn, N.Y., several months earlier, and he conspired with his father, Glen Bowman Sr., to traffic her to New Jersey to work in the prostitution ring.  Both Glen Bowman Sr. and Copeland threatened the 16-year-old with physical violence if she did not follow their rules and perform to their expectations.  The defendants drove the victim and other prostitutes to hotels and motels in South Hackensack, Clifton and other locations in northern New Jersey, where they serviced clients.  At the end of the day, the defendants picked them up and collected the money they had been paid.  Glen Bowman Sr. was the primary leader of the prostitution ring, but Ernestine Bowman took on a greater leadership role after her husband was arrested and imprisoned in New York in August 2014.

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Opium Wars: State of New Jersey Sues Fentanyl Drug Maker Insys


October 6,2017
the staff of the Ridgewood

Trenton NJ,  Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced today that New Jersey has filed a four-count lawsuit against Insys Therapeutics, Inc. charging that the company engaged in a greed-driven campaign of consumer  fraud and submission of false claims to health insurers to increase the market share for its powerful opioid-fentanyl drug Subsys.

Filed today in Superior Court in Middlesex County, the State’s complaint charges that, despite Subsys only having Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for the “narrow” purpose of treating breakthrough cancer pain in opioid-tolerant patients, Insys unlawfully directed its sales force to push Subsys for prescription to a broader patient population – patients suffering any type of chronic pain – and at higher doses.

Among other things, the complaint alleges that, Insys’s greed has put “hundreds” of lives in jeopardy and “led to the death of at least one New Jersey resident” – a 32-year-old Camden County woman who was prescribed Subsys for  fibromyalgia. In addition, the suit notes that two New Jersey state employee health benefits plans paid a total of approximately $10.3 million to reimburse Subsys prescriptions between 2012 and the third-quarter of 2016, while the State Worker’s Compensation Program paid another $300,000.

“The conduct alleged in our lawsuit is nothing short of evil,” said Attorney General Porrino. “Knowing full well it was putting lives in peril by pushing for broad based consumption of a highly-specialized and incredibly powerful prescription drug – a form of fentanyl approved only for treatment of pain-racked and opioid-tolerant cancer patients – Insys allegedly forged ahead and did it anyway.

“We contend that the company used every trick in the book, including sham speaking and consulting fees and other illegal kickbacks, in a callous campaign to boost profits from the sale of its marquee drug Subsys,” Porrino said.

The State’s lawsuit includes three counts alleging violation of New Jersey’s   Consumer Fraud Act and one count alleging violation of the New Jersey False Claims Act. The suit asks that Insys be assessed maximum civil penalties for each violation of the Consumer Fraud Act, and seeks three times the State’s actual damages for violations of the False Claims Act, per that statute. The suit also seeks to have Insys held responsible for costs and fees incurred by the State in bringing the case.

From the 2012 market launch of Subsys until the present, the drug has accounted for approximately 98 percent of net revenues for Insys, a Delaware corporation with headquarters in Chandler, AZ.

Insys, which has raised the price of Subsys every year since its launch, sold $74.2 million worth of the drug in New Jersey between 2012 and the third-quarter of 2016.

The State’s lawsuit alleges corporate decision-makers devised a strategy to expand what they recognized as a limited market for Subsys by aggressively pushing “off label” uses of the drug – even to  podiatrists and other specialty practitioners who typically would have little call to prescribe powerful Schedule II painkillers.

Off-label use denotes use of a drug for purposes other than that for which it was approved by the FDA. Based on their independent medical judgment, physicians have discretion to legally prescribe drugs for off-label use. However, drug companies are prohibited from promoting their products for such uses in an untruthful or misleading way, and influencing healthcare provider’s prescription decisions with payments and other benefits.

“Insys made tens of millions of dollars in sales in New Jersey,” said Porrino. “Clearly, raking in more money was the engine that drove this subversive and illegal plan to push a potent and, in the wrong patient, potentially lethal form of fentanyl to a broader audience. As we explicitly claim in our lawsuit, Insys and its leadership were willing to do whatever was necessary to make Subsys successful.”

Packed in a single-dose spray device intended for oral administration, Subsys is a transmucosal, immediate-release formulation of fentanyl.  In the drug’s first year on the market, a one-month supply of the lowest available strength of Subsys – 100 mcg doses – cost approximately $2,800. By 2015, the price of the same supply had spiraled to more than $4,000. The State’s lawsuit alleges that Insys regularly misled health insurance plans and pharmaceutical benefits managers to help secure coverage for Subsys prescriptions.

Specifically, the complaint charges, Insys representatives used or developed false records – including false diagnoses of cancer, breakthrough cancer pain and other afflictions – to help lock in pre-authorization approvals and ensure paid reimbursement claims.

The complaint alleges that Insys representatives went so far as to conceal the company’s telephone number from benefits managers and insurers so those entities would not be aware that it was Insys Reimbursement Center employees – calling directly from Insys – in an effort to obtain insurance reimbursement approvals for prescriptions of Subsys.

The suit also alleges that Insys routinely misled consumers by, among other things, making false representations that doctors and other prescribers were prescribing Subsys on the basis of their unbiased, independent clinical judgment when, in fact, that clinical judgment had been “co-opted based on Insys’s unlawful payment of kickbacks to prescribers.”

More than 840 people in New Jersey died from heroin or opioid abuse in 2010 and according to the State’s lawsuit, the confirmed heroin/opioid death toll in New Jersey jumped to more than 1,000 in the first half of 2016 alone (with projections of 2,000 deaths or more by year’s end.) At the same time, the complaint asserts, the number of people admitted to state-licensed or certified substance abuse treatment programs in New Jersey due to abuse of heroin or other opiates increased from about 33,000 in 2012 to more than 38,000 in 2016.

The complaint further points out that, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, 80 percent of new heroin users began their addictions by misusing prescription pain medications. It also notes that opiate-related deaths in the U.S. have more than quadrupled since 1999, according to the national Centers for Disease Control.

“As we allege, The fact that Insys was unlawfully flooding the market with a fentanyl product 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine seems not to have troubled the company at all,” Porrino said. “Nor, it appears, was it bothered by the notion that such a strategy could contribute to, and exacerbate, the grave opiate crisis being confronted by New Jersey and every other state. Insys launched a business plan that we allege was propelled by titanic greed and corporate irresponsibility, and we’re committed to holding them accountable for it.”

Assistant Attorney General John M. Falzone and Deputy Attorneys General from the Division of Law’s Government and Healthcare Fraud Section — including Section Chief Janine N. Matton, and Deputy Attorneys General Lara J. Fogel and Evan A. Showell – handled the Insys matter on behalf of the State.

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New Jersey Attorney General’s Office Indicts Four Men in Record-Setting Seizure of the Super-Potent Opioid Fentanyl


file photo by Boyd Loving

45 kilos of fentanyl seized by the State Police could have yielded 18 million lethal doses

September 30,2017
the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Trenton NJ, Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino today announced the indictment of four men in connection with the record-setting seizure of 45 kilograms – or nearly 100 pounds – of the super-potent synthetic opioid fentanyl by the New Jersey State Police in June. The State Police also seized nearly 40 kilos of heroin.

Fentanyl is one of the deadliest opioids, with a potency that is 50 times greater than heroin. The 45 kilos of fentanyl could have yielded over 18 million lethal doses, since a dose as small as 2 to 3 milligrams can be fatal. This case shatters the prior record for the largest seizure of fentanyl by law enforcement in New Jersey, which was set in March when the New Jersey State Police and U.S. Homeland Security Investigations seized 14 kilos of fentanyl in Camden. The fentanyl seized in June – including 40 kilos seized in North Bergen and five kilos seized in the same operation in Willingboro – was initially suspected to be heroin because of the huge quantity, but lab testing revealed it was fentanyl.

“The 45 kilos of fentanyl seized in this case is the largest fentanyl bust in the history of the state, having broken the prior record announced only a few months ago,” said Attorney General Porrino. “Dealers lace heroin with this deadly poison to boost potency, and with these amounts of fentanyl being stockpiled in New Jersey, I am desperately urging heroin users to seek treatment now more than ever, as their next dose could be their last. Fentanyl is so deadly that just these 45 kilos of fentanyl could have yielded enough lethal doses to kill the entire populations of New Jersey and New York City combined.”

The Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau obtained a state grand jury indictment charging the following three men with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl (2nd degree), possession of fentanyl with intent to distribute (2nd degree), and possession of fentanyl (3rd degree), in connection with the seizure of 40 kilos of fentanyl in North Bergen:

Jesus Carrillo-Pineda, 31, of Philadelphia, Pa.,
Jesus Yanez-Martinez, 22, of Somerton, Arizona, and
Daniel Vasquez, 28, of Somerton, Arizona.

Yanez-Martinez and Vasquez each face a charge of distribution of fentanyl (2nd degree), and Carrillo-Pineda faces a charge of possession of heroin (3rd degree) related to the North Bergen arrests.

The indictment also charges Carrillo-Pineda and Omar Zeus Rodriguez, 38, of Willingboro, N.J., in connection with the seizure in Willingboro of five kilos of fentanyl, nearly 40 kilos of heroin, and a smaller quantity of methamphetamine. They are each charged with conspiracy (2nd degree), possession of heroin with intent to distribute (1st degree), possession of heroin (3rd degree), possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute (1st degree), possession of methamphetamine (3rd degree), possession of fentanyl with intent to distribute (2nd degree), and possession of fentanyl (3rd degree).

“Cases like this involving the interdiction of major drug traffickers represent just one facet of our efforts to fight the opiate epidemic,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We also have a strike team that has criminally charged six doctors with indiscriminately prescribing opioid pain pills for profit, including two who face first-degree charges of strict liability for a drug-induced death. We are bringing the full force of the law to bear on those responsible for fueling opiate addiction.”

“The unfortunate trend of adding fentanyl to narcotics has created a demand for this deadly opiate, putting not only the lives of users in grave danger, but also the lives of troopers and other first responders who may have come into contact with it,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “It is without question that this record-setting seizure of fentanyl preserved life and saved countless families the agony of losing a loved one to this terrible scourge.”

During the investigation, New Jersey State Police detectives from the Trafficking North Unit developed information that a shipment of drugs was being delivered to a location in North Bergen. On June 28, 2017, State Police detectives, assisted by members of the North Bergen Police Department, located and arrested Carrillo-Pineda, Yanez-Martinez and Vasquez in the parking lot of a business in North Bergen after observing an alleged drug transaction, in which the fentanyl allegedly was transferred from a tractor-trailer occupied by Yanez-Martinez and Vasquez to a Mercedes Benz driven by Carrillo-Pineda. The arrests resulted in the seizure of the 40 kilograms of fentanyl, which were individually wrapped and held in two black duffel bags that had been transferred to the trunk of the Mercedes Benz. A search of the car also revealed a handbag containing $1,050 in U.S. currency and a small quantity of heroin. The 40 individually wrapped kilos of fentanyl were initially suspected to be heroin, but lab testing revealed the packages contained fentanyl.

The next day, June 29, State Police detectives of the Trafficking South Unit continued the investigation with assistance from the Willingboro Police Department, conducting a search at Rodriguez’s residence in Willingboro, where Carrillo-Pineda had been staying. As a result, detectives arrested Rodriguez and seized nearly 80 kilos of suspected narcotics. Rodriguez was loading suitcases into a Range Rover outside his residence when he was approached by detectives. The drugs were found in the suitcases and an open Fed Ex box in the vehicle’s trunk. Testing confirmed that the seized kilos included five kilos of fentanyl, nearly 40 kilos of heroin, and a smaller quantity of methamphetamine. Other kilo packages contained cutting agents.

While it has been spotlighted for killing Prince and other celebrities, fentanyl also is responsible for a growing death toll in New Jersey, where there were 417 overdose deaths from fentanyl in 2015, and 394 overdose deaths from fentanyl and fentanyl analogs in just the first six months of 2016. Fentanyl is commonly mixed with heroin or cocaine for sale on the street, or is sold in powder compounds or counterfeit pills disguised as heroin, oxycodone or Xanax. Fentanyl is now found in approximately 30 percent of the heroin specimens tested by the New Jersey State Police forensic laboratories. By comparison, fentanyl was found in only 2 percent of the heroin tested by those labs in the first quarter of 2015. Given the tiny size of a lethal dose, drug users are dying because dealers are careless about how much fentanyl they put in such mixes and pills.

Fentanyl is so potent that medics and police across the U.S. have been sickened by coming into contact with it while responding to overdoses or making arrests. The State Police Hazardous Materials Response Unit assisted with the search in Willingboro to address the concern about collateral exposure.

In addition to fentanyl, seven fentanyl knock-offs have been sold on the street in New Jersey, usually disguised as less-powerful drugs like heroin or oxycodone, triggering overdose deaths. The Attorney General’s Office issued an emergency order last year adding those fentanyl knockoffs to the list of drugs subject to the strictest level of state control.

Deputy Attorney General Norma Garcia presented the indictment to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Annmarie Taggart and Bureau Chief Lauren Scarpa Yfantis.

Detective Sgt. Jeovanny Rodriguez was the lead detective for the investigation for the State Police Intelligence Section, Violent & Organized Crime Control Bureau North, Trafficking North Unit. Detective Garrett Cullen was the lead detective for the investigation for the State Police Intelligence Section, Violent & Organized Crime Control Bureau South, Trafficking South Unit. Attorney General Porrino commended all of the detectives and troopers who participated in the investigation for the New Jersey State Police. He also thanked the North Bergen Police Department and Willingboro Police Department for their assistance.

The first-degree charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $200,000. Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while the third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $35,000.

The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Hudson County, where the defendants will be ordered to appear in court at a later date for arraignment.

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New Jersey Attorney General’s Office Charges the 100th Person with Superstorm Sandy Relief Funds Fraud


3 of the last 4 from Bergen County 

September 29,2017
the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Trenton NJ,  Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced that the Attorney General’s Office and its state and federal partners have charged 100 criminal defendants in their unprecedented collaborative efforts to root out fraud in disaster relief programs following Superstorm Sandy. Four new defendants were charged yesterday with filing fraudulent applications for federal relief funds related to Sandy, bringing the total charged by the Attorney General’s Office with this type of fraud to 100.

“Charging 100 defendants in these relief-fraud cases is a sad milestone in that it highlights how many people are willing, in the face of a historic disaster, to dishonestly exploit an offer of aid meant for those who were hardest hit,” said Attorney General Porrino. “At the same time, we’re proud of our collaborative efforts, which have recovered millions of dollars and sent an unmistakable message that those who commit this fraud will face serious criminal charges, now and during any future disasters. The 100 defendants we have charged were responsible for diverting nearly $6 million in relief funds.”

The Attorney General’s Office is continuing its aggressive efforts to investigate fraud in Sandy relief programs, working jointly with the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA), and the Offices of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Also assisting the taskforce is the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, New Jersey Office of the State Comptroller, New Jersey Department of the Treasury Office of Criminal Investigation, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the non-profit National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

The defendants are alleged, in most cases, to have filed fraudulent applications for relief funds offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In many cases, they also applied for funds from a Sandy relief program funded by HUD, low-interest disaster loans from the SBA, or funds from HHS. The HUD funds are administered in New Jersey by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs and the HHS funds are administered by the New Jersey Department of Human Services.

The following defendants were charged yesterday by complaint-summons:

Michael A. Avena, 65, of Wyckoff, N.J., allegedly filed fraudulent applications following Superstorm Sandy for FEMA assistance and state grants under the Homeowner Resettlement Program (RSP), the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program, and the Sandy Homeowner and Renter Assistance Program (SHRAP). As a result, he allegedly received approximately $201,861 in relief funds to which he was not entitled. Avena allegedly falsely claimed in his applications that a home he owns on 5th Avenue in Ortley Beach, N.J., which was damaged by Superstorm Sandy, was his primary residence when Sandy struck. It is alleged that, in fact, his primary residence at the time of the storm was in Wyckoff and the home in Ortley Beach was a vacation home. As a result of the alleged fraudulent applications, Avena received $31,900 from FEMA, a $10,000 RSP grant, RREM grant funds totaling $150,000, and $9,961 in SHRAP funds. Avena is charged with second-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification.

Charles Tuohy, 55, and his wife, Joanne Benzoni, 64, of Tenafly, N.J., allegedly filed fraudulent applications following Superstorm Sandy for FEMA assistance and state grants under the Homeowner Resettlement Program (RSP) and the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program. As a result, the couple allegedly received $162,270 in relief funds to which they were not entitled. Tuohy and Benzoni allegedly falsely claimed in their applications that a home Benzoni owns on Lynn Ann Lane in Manahawkin, N.J., which was damaged by Superstorm Sandy, was their primary residence when Sandy struck. It is alleged that, in fact, their primary residence at the time of the storm was in Tenafly and the home in Manahawkin was a seasonal/weekend home. As a result of the alleged fraudulent applications, Tuohy and Benzoni received $2,270 from FEMA, a $10,000 RSP grant, and $150,000 in RREM grant funds. Tuohy and Benzoni are charged with second-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification.

Paula Belotta, 56, of Colonia, N.J., allegedly filed fraudulent applications following Superstorm Sandy for FEMA assistance and a state grant under the Homeowner Resettlement Program (RSP). As a result, she allegedly received $12,270 in relief funds to which she was not entitled. Belotta allegedly falsely claimed in her applications that a home she owns on Fielder Avenue in Ortley Beach, N.J., which was damaged by Superstorm Sandy, was her primary residence when Sandy struck. It is alleged that, in fact, her primary residence at the time of the storm was in Colonia and the home in Ortley Beach was a seasonal/weekend home. As a result of the alleged false applications, Belotta received $2,270 from FEMA and a $10,000 RSP grant. Belotta is charged with third-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification.

“Our unprecedented collaborative efforts to target Sandy relief fraud have been highly productive, as evidenced by the 100 defendants we’ve charged,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “The payoff from this anti-fraud program is not only the millions of dollars we are recovering, but also the deterrent message we hammer home each time new charges are filed. Thanks to these efforts, relief administrators in future disasters may be able to spend less time policing fraud, which is a drain on resources and a distraction from the vital task of aiding those in need.”

“The State’s continued vigilance against Sandy fraud demonstrates that we won’t stand for this reprehensible behavior,” said DCA Commissioner Charles A. Richman. “As such, my Department remains as committed as ever to working with our law enforcement partners to catch anyone who misuses our Sandy recovery programs.”

The new cases were investigated by detectives of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice and special agents and inspectors of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, HUD Office of Inspector General, SBA Office of Inspector General, HHS Office of Inspector General and U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The National Insurance Crime Bureau assisted. Deputy Attorneys General Peter Gallagher, Valerie Noto, and Denise Grugan are prosecuting the new defendants under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General Michael A. Monahan, Chief of the Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau, and Deputy Attorney General Mark Kurzawa, Deputy Bureau Chief. Lt. David Nolan and Sgt. Fred Weidman conducted and coordinated the investigations for the Division of Criminal Justice, with others, including Special Civil Investigators Rita Binn and James Parolski.

Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to$150,000. Third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000, while fourth-degree charges carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of $10,000. The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

On Oct. 29, 2012, Superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey, resulting in an unprecedented level of damage. Almost immediately, the affected areas were declared federal disaster areas, making residents eligible for FEMA relief. FEMA grants are provided to repair damaged homes and replace personal property. In addition, rental assistance grants are available for impacted homeowners. FEMA allocates up to $31,900 per applicant for federal disasters. To qualify for FEMA relief, applicants must affirm that the damaged property was their primary residence at the time of the storm.

In addition to the FEMA relief funds, HUD allocated $16 billion in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for storm victims on the East Coast. New Jersey received $2.3 billion in CDBG funds for housing-related programs, including $215 million that was allocated for the Homeowner Resettlement Program (RSP) and $1.1 billion that was allocated for the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program. Under RSP, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs is disbursing grants of $10,000 to encourage homeowners affected by Sandy to remain in the nine counties most seriously impacted by the storm: Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean and Union counties. The RREM Program, which is the state’s largest housing recovery program, provides grants to Sandy-impacted homeowners to cover rebuilding costs up to $150,000 that are not funded by insurance, FEMA, SBA loans, or other sources.

The Small Business Administration provides low-interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes, and most private nonprofit organizations. SBA disaster loans can be used to repair or replace real estate, personal property, machinery and equipment, and inventory and business assets damaged or destroyed in a declared disaster. Renters and homeowners may borrow up to $40,000 to repair or replace clothing, furniture, cars or appliances damaged or destroyed in the disaster. Homeowners may apply for a loan of up to $200,000 to replace or repair their primary residence to its pre-disaster condition. Secondary homes or vacation properties are not eligible for these loans, but qualified rental properties may be eligible for assistance under the business loan program.

The Disaster Relief Act provided HHS approximately $760 million in funding for Sandy victims. The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) received approximately $577 million in Sandy funding through three grant programs, including the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) program, which received nearly $475 million to help five states (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Maryland). New Jersey received over $226 million for a wide range of social services directly related to the disaster. New Jersey used SSBG funds to develop the Sandy Homeowner/Renter Assistance Program (SHRAP) to assist individuals/families with expenses for housing and other related needs.

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Bergen County Chiropractor Final Defendant Charged in Multi-Level Insurance Fraud Network Run by Monmouth County Brothers

insurance fraud

September 27,2017
the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Park Ridge NJ,  Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor (OIFP) today announced that a Bergen County chiropractor has been charged as the final defendant in a multi-level insurance fraud network run by Colts Neck Brothers Anhuar and Karim Bandy.

Anthony Riotto, 44, who operates Riotto Family Chiropractic in Park Ridge, was charged by accusation with third-degree health care claims fraud in connection with the Bandy brothers’ criminal network.

He is the final defendant charged in a complex insurance fraud scheme in which the Bandy brothers paid illegal “runners” to recruit car crash victims as patients for chiropractic facilities they controlled, then collected kickbacks for referring those victims for medical and legal services provided by others who pleaded guilty in the scheme, including a doctor, a lawyer, three licensed chiropractors, a paralegal and a licensed acupuncturist.

“We are moving forward with our prosecution of the final defendant in an investigation that put a stop to egregious corruption of New Jersey’s medical, legal, and insurance industries,” said Attorney General Porrino. “We will continue to enforce the laws that protect patients from being treated like cattle being sold to the highest bidder.”

“Patients must be able to trust that medical decisions are being made in their interest, not in the interest of criminals trying to scam the insurance system,” said Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Christopher Iu. “As this case demonstrates, anyone who exploits and manipulates patients for financial gain will be held accountable.”

According to the allegations against him, Riotto caused numerous fraudulent claims to be submitted to five insurance carriers in connection with patients he referred to MLS Medical, a Park Ridge practice specializing in pain management owned by another participant in the Bandy brother’s criminal scheme.

Riotto allegedly received the patients for his chiropractic practice through the Bandy brothers’ illegal runners network, then referred them to MLS Medical without disclosing to them that he had a financial interest in the practice. MLS Medical, in turn, submitted insurance claims for those patients without disclosing to insurance carriers that the patients had been referred by a practitioner with financial interest in the practice.

Twelve defendants have pleaded guilty and been sentenced in the criminal enterprise exposed in the April 2014 indictment of Anhuar and Karim Bandy and 10 others. Five more individuals, including Riotto, were subsequently charged in connection with the scheme.

The Bandy brothers have admitted that between June 1, 2009 and January 1, 2014 they illegally controlled several chiropractic facilities through purported “management companies” and “marketing companies” whose real purpose was to hide their ownership. New Jersey regulations require that chiropractic facilities be owned by licensed chiropractors or medical doctors; neither Bandy holds such titles.

In order to generate revenue for the chiropractic facilities, the brothers used “runners” to bring motor vehicle accident patients to the facilities so the straw owners could bill insurance carriers for services rendered at the facilities. An investigation determined that, through the scheme, the chiropractic facilities billed insurance companies for millions of dollars for services they purported to perform. The checks sent by the insurance carriers were deposited into the various accounts of the chiropractic facilities or the management companies. A large portion of the monies deposited into the accounts of the chiropractic facilities would then be paid to the Bandy management companies.

The runners were paid up to $1,000 for each patient that they recruited for medical treatment. An investigation determined that the runners retrieved motor vehicle accident reports at local police stations, under the Open Public Records Act rules, and then visited the homes of the motor vehicle accident victims in an attempt to persuade them to utilize the services of the chiropractic facilities controlled by the Bandy brothers. The runners picked up the motor vehicle accident patients from their homes and drove them to the chiropractic facilities. An investigation determined that payments were made to companies incorporated by Karim Bandy for over a thousand referrals of patients for medical treatment and/or clients for legal representation.

In July 2015, Anhuar and Karim Bandy pleaded guilty to second-degree insurance fraud and were each sentenced to six-and-a-half-year prison terms in hearings that took place in June and July, respectively, of this year. They also were ordered to pay a $100,000 fine and $50,000 reimbursement to insurance companies that paid thousands of fraudulent claims over a four-year period.

The following professional service providers pleaded guilty and were sentenced in the scheme:

Dr. Mark Schwartz, D.O., 50, of Park Ridge, owner of MLS Medical in Park Ridge who pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree health care claims fraud and was sentenced to three years of probation and 40 hours of community service.
David Walker, Esq., 58, of Rockaway, a personal injury lawyer who pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree conspiracy and was sentenced to two years of probation and 40 hours of community service.
Alexandra Gallegos, 55, of Piscataway, a paralegal who received a percentage of the profits of Walker’s firm, who filed personal injury claims on behalf of the motor vehicle accident patients. She pleaded guilty to third-degree conspiracy and third-degree criminal use of runners and was sentenced two years of probation, 40 hours of community service, and a $5,000 criminal fine.
Edward Formisano, D.C., 55, of Roxbury, a chiropractor and purported owner of Eclipse Chiropractic, located in Plainfield; Lakewood Chiropractic, located in Lakewood; Liberty Chiropractic Center, located in Jersey City; and Chiropractic Spine Center, located in Perth Amboy. He pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree health care claims fraud and was sentenced to two years of probation and 40 hours of community service.
Louis Brown, D.C., 65, of Rahway, a chiropractor and purported owner of True Healing and Wellness, located in New Brunswick; New Century Chiropractic, located in Dover; and Wellspring Rehabilitation, located in North Plainfield. He pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree criminal use of a runner and was sentenced to two years of probation and 40 hours of community service.
Gerald Roth, D.C., 69, of Highland Park, a chiropractor who pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree criminal use of runners and was sentenced to one year of probation.
Sergey Lipschitz, 44, of Morganville, an acupuncturist who pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree insurance fraud and was admitted into the Pretrial Intervention Program.

The following individuals pleaded guilty to criminal use of runners (3rd degree) and were sentenced:

Cesar Huaman, 48, of Orlando, Fla., who also recruited other runners in the scheme, also pleaded guilty to third-degree conspiracy. He was sentenced to two years of probation.
Estefania Frias, 27, of Plainfield, who is Anhuar Bandy’s fiancé, was sentenced to two years of probation, 40 hours of community service, a $2,000 criminal fine, and $2,000 in restitution.
Bernardo Neiman, 55, of Elizabeth, was sentenced to one year of probation.

Lillian Frias, 55, of Plainfield, who is Estefania Frias’ mother; Albert Lee Hughes, 35, of Orlando, Fla.; and Anali Rivera, 29, Somerville, were all admitted into the Pretrial Intervention Program based on the charges in the indictment. Charges are pending against Rene Lacotera, 39, of Elizabeth, who is being sought on a fugitive warrant.

In 2004, Anhuar Bandy was convicted on charges of criminal racketeering, conspiracy, health care claims fraud, and theft charges brought by the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor. Bandy subsequently served approximately four years in state prison.

Deputy Attorney Cheryl Maccaroni, Bureau Chief, Private Insurance, represented the State in the filing of the criminal charges against Riotto on September 8, 2017. Lt. Joseph Waters, Investigator/Analyst Marwa Kashef coordinated the investigation. Detectives Janet Amberg, Amy Carson, Heather Pittman, and Analyst Bethany Schussler assisted in the investigation. Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Iu thanks the Special Investigations Units and counsel for the following insurance Companies: Allstate, Plymouth Rock, Liberty Mutual, Geico and Travelers; as well as the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance, the New Jersey Division of Taxation, and the National Insurance Crime Bureau for their assistance in the investigation.

Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Iu noted that some important cases have started with anonymous tips. People who are concerned about insurance cheating and have information about a fraud can report it anonymously by calling the toll-free hotline at 1-877-55-FRAUD, or visiting the Web site at State regulations permit a reward to be paid to an eligible person who provides information that leads to an arrest, prosecution and conviction for insurance fraud.

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New Jersey Joins Multi-State Call for Equifax to Disable Fee-Based Monitoring Services, Reimburse Fees for Security Freezes


September 16,2017

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Trenton NJ,  Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced today that New Jersey has signed onto a multi-state letter calling on the credit reporting firm Equifax to disable web links for enrollment in its fee-based credit monitoring service in the wake of a massive data breach with potential to impact 143 million consumers, including nearly 4 million in New Jersey.

A multi-state investigation into the breach began last week as soon as Equifax publicly disclosed it. In the wake of the breach, Equifax has offered free credit monitoring services.

But in a letter to Equifax today, the participating attorneys general objected to Equifax “seemingly using its own data breach as an opportunity to sell services to breach victims.” Enrollment information regarding fee-based services has featured prominently on the Equifax website.

”We believe continuing to offer consumers a fee-based service in addition to Equifax’s free monitoring services will serve to only confuse consumers who are already struggling to make decisions on how to best protect themselves in the wake of this massive breach,” the letter asserts. “Selling a fee-based product that competes with Equifax’s own free offer of credit monitoring services to victims of Equifax’s own data breach is unfair, particularly if consumers are not sure if their information was compromised.”

The multi-state letter also notes that, although Equifax has agreed to waive credit freeze fees for those who would otherwise be subject to them, the other two credit bureaus — Experian and Transunion — continue to charge fees for security freezes.

The letter contends that Equifax should be taking steps to reimburse consumers who incur these fees while seeking to completely freeze their credit.

“This is one version of a consumer’s worst fear — having his or her sensitive financial and other personal information compromised by a cyber-data breach,” said Attorney General Porrino. “In New Jersey and across the nation, many people are angry, confused and stressed by the potential for harm in this breach. In our view, Equifax now has a duty to ensure that consumers don’t end up paying for credit monitoring, and Equifax also has a duty to reimburse consumers for the cost of a complete credit freeze – which will require paying fees to the other two credit reporting companies.”

“While the multi-state investigation remains active,” Porrino added, “one thing we know is that consumers aren’t at fault here. They had no hand in creating the cyber-security crisis now confronting Equifax. As such, consumers should have access – at zero cost – to the best available credit monitoring services and protections.”

In a letter sent to Equifax last week, the investigating multi-state group requested information about the circumstances leading to the breach, the reasons for a months-long delay between the breach and Equifax’s public disclosure, what protections the company had in place at the time of the breach, and how the company intends to protect consumers affected by the breach.

The attorneys general also have had communications with Equifax expressing concerns about terms of service relative to the offered free credit monitoring services, and the prominence of service enrollment information on Equifax’s Web page.

Assistant Attorney General John Falzone and Deputy Attorneys General Elliott Siebers and Russell Smith are handling the Equifax matter on behalf of the State.

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Christie Administration Launches Online Portal to Report Abuse or Diversion of Prescription Opioid Fueling Addiction Crisis

Atlantic County Pharmacist Credited with Tip Leading to Arrest of Essex County Doc Accused of Prescribing Pain Pills to South Jersey Drug Ring
August 3,2017
the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ,  Expanding Governor Chris Christie’s efforts to stem the flow of pain pills and other prescription drugs fueling New Jersey’s opioid crisis, Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and the Division of Consumer Affairs today announced a new web-based portal that will allow pharmacists, medical practitioners, and members of the public to easily report suspected abuse or diversion of controlled substances.

The Suspicious Activity Report (“SAR”) portal, a new feature of the NJ Prescription Monitoring Program (NJPMP), permits individuals to report suspicious activities such as the overprescribing of controlled substances, “doctor shopping” to stockpile drugs, or the circulation of forged or stolen prescriptions.

The SAR portal can be accessed on the Division’s website. Information contained in filed reports will be reviewed for possible administrative and criminal enforcement action.

“As the deadly scourge of addiction continues to claim lives in our state, we’re making it easier than ever for New Jerseyans to fight back,” said Attorney General Porrino. “By taking a few minutes to submit a Suspicious Activity Report online, you could be preventing a fresh supply of habit-forming drugs from hitting the streets and destroying lives.”

It was a tip from an Atlantic County pharmacist that led to last week’s arrest of Essex County internist Dr. Craig Gialanella and 16 alleged drug dealers accused of running an illegal pill ring that distributed tens of thousands of high-dose opioid pain pills.

Gialanella was charged with second-degree distribution of narcotics for allegedly writing the prescriptions that supplied dealers with large quantities of oxycodone and alprazolam, a generic form of Xanax, for sale on the street. Upon his arrest, Gialanella, signed a Consent Order with the State Board of Medical Examiners agreeing to the temporary suspension of his medical license and his registration to prescribe Controlled Dangerous Substances (“CDS”) in the state, pending further action by the Board.

“The sharp eyes and quick actions of this Atlantic County pharmacist helped bring down a drug ring allegedly being supplied by a doctor abusing his prescribing privileges,” said Steve Lee, Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “We’re hoping the new Suspicious Activity Report portal will encourage more individuals to play an active role in preventing deadly drugs from falling into the hands of addicts or dealers.”

The Division began investigating Gialanella in October 2016, when the Atlantic County pharmacist, who has not been identified, reported that numerous local residents were obtaining large quantities of opioids from Gialanella, a Belleville internist whose office is 100 miles away.

The pharmacist noted that Gialanella’s “patients” frequently presented prescriptions for oxycodone that were issued in the same name with a different date of birth, in an apparent attempt to avoid detection by the NJPMP and to avoid limits on permitted quantities of such narcotics.

A subsequent review of the NJPMP revealed that Gialanella had issued and/or authorized to be issued 6,600 CDS prescriptions in large quantities – for a total of 734,000 dosage units – since the beginning of 2015. His patients had filled prescriptions at 500 pharmacies throughout the state, including Atlantic County, according to the Consent Order.

The Division of Consumer Affairs referred the case to the state Division of Criminal Justice which launched a criminal investigation that led to the arrest of Gialanella and the 16 alleged street dealers he was allegedly supplying.

According to the criminal charges, Gialanella charged purported patients $50 to $100 for an “office visit,” which typically lasted just a few minutes and did not involve any type of exam, testing or treatment. Gialanella would write prescriptions for 90 or 180 tablets of oxycodone 30 milligram, and 90 tablets of alprazolam 2 milligram, according to the criminal charges. It is alleged that Gialanella would write from two to as many as five prescriptions for each drug for a single patient every 30 days, frequently leaving the date of birth blank.

The alleged dealers sold the 30 milligram oxycodone tablets, known as “Blues,” for between $18 and $25 per pill. They allegedly sold the alprazolam pills, known as “Zannies,” for $5 each, according to the criminal charges.

The criminal investigation is ongoing, and it is suspected that Dr. Gialanella may have been illegally prescribing oxycodone to individuals in other counties.

The new SAR portal is the latest enhancement to the NJPMP, a centralized data sharing system for healthcare providers and pharmacists in partner states to track prescription sales of narcotic painkillers, and other drugs that often lead to deadly heroin addictions.

Last month, the Division expanded the NJPMP’s capabilities to allow users to review two years’ worth of prescription records, instead of just one. In addition, the system now automatically converts all opioid medicines to a standard “morphine milligram equivalent” dose to help avoid over-prescribing or patient overdose.

Established in 2011, the NJPMP now contains nearly 74 million prescriptions written or filled in New Jersey. Each record in the database contains the names and addresses of the patient, doctor, and pharmacy; drug dispensing date; type, days’ supply, and quantity of medication; and method of payment.

Practitioners are required to check the NJPMP the first time they prescribe a Schedule II CDS to a new or current patient for acute or chronic pain, and on a quarterly basis (every three months) during the period of time a current patient continues to receive a prescription for a Schedule II CDS for acute or chronic pain.

Pharmacies that dispense Schedule II-V CDS and Human Growth Hormone (HGH) in New Jersey, or into New Jersey, are required to submit data on all transactions for such drugs to the NJPMP on a daily basis.

Twelve states – Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, West Virginia, Virginia, South Carolina, and Minnesota – share data with the NJPMP.

The NJPMP is also a valuable tool for law enforcement and regulatory investigations into the unlawful diversion of prescription narcotics. The database has been used to identify and successfully prosecute healthcare professionals associated with “pill mills” that dispense narcotics without a legitimate medical purpose.

For more information visit the Division’s NJPMP website at

For information on New Jersey’s new opioid prescribing regulations, or to find guidance on safer pain medication prescribing practices, visit the Division’s Prescribing for Pain website at
Patients who believe that a licensed health care professional is prescribing CDS inappropriately can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504- 6200.