Veterans Affairs Employee Stole More Than $10 Million Worth of AIDS Medication

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NEWARK, N.J. – A former pharmacy procurement technician was indicted today for stealing prescription HIV medications from the pharmacy of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in East Orange, New Jersey, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced.

Lisa M. Hoffman, 48, of Orange, New Jersey, is charged by indictment with one count each of conspiracy, theft of government property, and theft of medical products.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

From October 2015 through November 2019, Hoffman was a procurement officer at the VAMC, who used her authority to order large quantities of HIV prescription medications so that she could steal the excess. After the medications arrived, Hoffman waited until co-workers were out of sight and then removed them from the VAMC. 

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Once Hoffman stole the medications, she met her associate, Wagner Checonolasco, aka “Wanny,” generally at Hoffman’s residence, so that Hoffman could provide the stolen HIV medications to Checonolasco in exchange for cash. Hoffman and Checonolasco used an encrypted messaging application to plan and execute their thefts and sales of the stolen HIV medications, including arranging for the medications-for-cash exchanges. After obtaining the stolen HIV medications from Hoffman, Checonolasco sold them. Hoffman and Checonolasco stole approximately $10 million worth of HIV medications belonging to the VAMC during the conspiracy.

Checonolasco, 33, of Lyndhurst, New Jersey, was previously charged with conspiracy to steal government property, and those charges remain pending.

The conspiracy charge is punishable by a maximum penalty of five years in prison. The theft of government property charge is punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The charge of theft of medical products is punishable by a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Each charge also is punishable by a maximum fine of $250,000, or twice the gross pecuniary gain derived from the offense, or twice the gross pecuniary loss sustained by any victims of the offense, whichever is greatest. The theft of medical products charge also carries a civil penalty of $1 million, or three times the economic loss attributable to the offense.

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Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. in Newark, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, Northeast Field Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Christopher F. Algieri, with the ongoing investigation leading to the charges.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole F. Mastropieri of the Health Care Fraud Unit.

The charges and allegations against the defendants are merely accusations, and they are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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