AKRON, Ohio (WCMH) – A Dublin, Ohio, pharmaceutical representative pleaded guilty Monday to his role in a kickback conspiracy in which a doctor wrote prescriptions for patients who did not need to take the medication in exchange for money and other items.
The United States Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Ohio said Frank Mazzucco, 44, of Dublin, was employed by Avanir Pharmaceuticals as a manager supervising pharmaceutical sales representatives in the northeastern region of the state.
One of Mazzucco’s codefendants, Deepak Raheja, 66, of Hudson, Ohio, also pleaded guilty Monday.
Avanir produced just one drug, Nuedexta, which is used only to treat pseudobulbar (PBA), a condition characterized by involuntary and frequent episodes of uncontrollable laughing and crying, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
Between February 2011 and July 2016, Mazzucco, Raheja, and others conspired to boost the number of prescriptions Raheja and others wrote for Neudexta in exchange for monetary kickbacks and other items, court records state.
According to the attorney’s office, Mazzucco and other defendants in the case incentivized doctors, including Raheja, by using social events and payments, falsifying paid speaking engagements, and buying food for doctors and their staff. The goal was to increase the number of Neudexta prescriptions the physicians wrote.
Court records allege Raheja received approximately $331,550 in payments from Avanir between October 2011 and April 2016, during which time he wrote approximately 10,088 Nuedexta prescriptions, the most in the United States. Raheja also allegedly billed Medicare and Medicaid for Nuedexta prescriptions for patients who didn’t suffer from PBA; falsely diagnosed patients; and recorded nonexistent PBA symptoms on patients’ records.
Mazzucco and Raheja both pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy to solicit, receive, offer, and pay health care kickbacks. Mazzucco will be sentenced on Feb. 15, 2023, while Raheja will be sentenced on Feb. 3, 2023.
As part of his plea deal, Raheja agreed to spend 30 months in prison, surrender his medical license, make at least $1.178 million in restitution, and pay an undetermined fine.