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A third superseding indictment was just unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn charging Brian Michael Sutton, Brycen Kay Millett, Anthony Santamaria, Joshua Manuel Alegria, Hershel Tsikman and Hafizullah Ebady with conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud and money laundering conspiracy. As alleged, the defendants participated in an international scheme to acquire pharmacies across the United States with pre-existing relationships with private health insurance companies.

Using those pharmacies, in conjunction with call centers to induce individuals to accept unnecessary medications and a network of recruited physicians, the defendants generated more than $500 million in fraudulent prescriptions purportedly filled by the scheme pharmacies.

Santamaria, Alegria and Tsikman were arrested today in California and will be arraigned this afternoon in federal court in Los Angeles. Millett and Ebady were previously indicted and arrested on health care fraud charges, and will be arraigned at a later date. Sutton remains at large and is believed to reside in Moscow.

Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York and James Smith, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI) announced the arrests and charges.

As alleged, between 2017 and 2022, Sutton, a U.S. citizen residing in Russia, led his co-defendants in carrying out an international scheme to bill private insurers for hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of fraudulent prescriptions. At Sutton’s direction, the conspirators oversaw call centers initially based in Utah, but later operated from Russia and other foreign nations.

Call center employees telephoned beneficiaries enrolled in private insurers’ health care plans and offered prescription medications at little to no cost to the beneficiaries and without any medical exam to determine the medical necessity for those medications.

The defendants also recruited doctors purportedly to review prescriptions by nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants after telemedicine visits. Contrary to what the recruited doctors were told, in many cases there were no telemedicine visits between the beneficiaries and any medical professionals. The conspirators generated fraudulent prescriptions under the physicians’ names and National Provider Identifier (NPI) numbers. Despite the prescriptions, many beneficiaries never received the medications.

To conceal their involvement, the defendants operated under multiple aliases, funneled millions of dollars through pass-through shell companies and straw owners, used end-to-end encrypted communications and moved operations overseas.

Specifically, the defendants purchased and operated dozens of existing brick-and-mortar pharmacies through straw owners including in Brooklyn, Staten Island, Manhattan, Long Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, Michigan and Alabama. The conspirators also laundered millions of dollars in fraudulent proceeds from overseas through pass-through shell companies that they used to purchase the scheme pharmacies and conceal the defendants’ involvement.

After acquiring the brick-and-mortar pharmacies, the conspirators oversaw the installation of pharmacy management software that allowed for the remote submission of reimbursement requests by the scheme pharmacies to private insurers; they also trained and supervised a team of “billers” that remotely submitted hundreds of thousands of reimbursement requests totaling over $500 million for over 50 pharmacies. Ultimately, private insurers paid over $280 million as a result of the fraudulent billing.

Co-conspirators Dela Saidazim pleaded guilty in February 2023 and David Gary Bishoff pleaded guilty in March 2023 to health care fraud conspiracy and are awaiting sentencing.

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Business and Securities Fraud Section. Assistant United States Attorneys John Vagelatos, Jessica Weigel and Jonathan P. Lax are in charge of the prosecution with assistance from Paralegal Specialist William Daniels. Claire S. Kedeshian of the Office’s Asset Recovery Section is handling forfeiture matters.