Doctor from West Orange Sentenced for Medicaid Fraud
Dr. Clifton Howell sentenced to three years in state prison for role in statewide drug trafficking ring
A doctor from West Orange was sentenced to three years in prison after admitting in court he took part in a statewide health care scam, New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow announced Friday.
In addition to serving jail time, Dr. Clifton Howell, who practiced in Jersey City, was ordered to pay $101,281 in restitution fees and $101,281 in civil penalties by Superior Court Judge Paul M. DePascale. Howell, 54, will also be banned as a doctor from the Medicaid program for five years.
Howell pleaded guilty to second-degree health care claims fraud July 6 before Superior Court Judge Kevin G. Callahan in Hudson County, officials with the attorney general said. He was charged in February 2011 by a grand jury and arrested October 2009 following an investigation called, "Operation MedScam," an ongoing investigation conducted by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor and the Jersey City Police Department’s Special Investigation Unit.
Authorities said Howell submitted false claims to Medicaid as part of a statewide ring that illegally sold pain pills to people on the street. As a licensed doctor, he would file prescription drugs Medicaid claims for his patients. Officials said that while Medicaid paid out the claims, his patients were never given the drugs.
Howell is one of 34 defendants that have pleaded guilty in the statewide drug trafficking ring, according to Dow.
Louis Lisi, 36, of Union City, was sentenced to 22 years in state prison, including 9 years of parole ineligibility, Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Chillemi said Friday in a release. He said Lisi led the narcotics ring and admitted in July that he led and organized the transportation of the thousands of pain pills that were sold each week across the state, including Oxycodone and Percocet. Officials said OxyCodone pills, known as "blue" sell for $10-$20 on the street, while Percocet pills sell for $5-$8.
"The Jersey City Police Department, in cooperation with the Division of Criminal Justice, is targeting a problem that is increasing both statewide and nationwide," Jersey City Police Chief Thomas Comey said. "Other agencies can look to this investigation and prosecution for a strong example of how to combat the trend in the black market distribution of prescription drugs."
Lisi and Howell were charged along with Amir Tadros, 34, of Jersey City, a pharmacist from Five Corners Pharmacy in Jersey City. Tadros was sentenced to five years probation after he pleaded guilty to third degree health care claims fraud. He was also excluded from the Medicaid program for five years and owes more than $100,000 in restitution and civil penalty fees.
Another ringleader, two other pharmacists and 28 drug dealers have also admitted their roles in the pill scam. A second doctor, Magdy Elamir, 58, of Saddle Brook, was indicted July 2010, though charges against him are still pending.