A 10-year veteran of the Atlantic City Fire Department became the first public employee to plead guilty in a far-reaching prescription-fraud scheme.
Mike Pepper, who resigned less than two weeks ago, admitted to conspiracy to commit health care fraud in Camden Federal Court on Friday.
He was the fifth person to plead guilty in the multimillion case that allegedly used doctors to sign prescriptions for compound creams that would then be written under the names of public employees to the tune of $10,000 each month.
Matthew Tedesco was the first to plead guilty Thursday. The pharmaceutical representative from Linwood admitted to paying doctors for their signatures and getting “patients” to join in the endeavor.
Two other pharmaceutical representatives pleaded guilty earlier Friday: Steven Urbanski, 37, of Marlton, and Thomas Hodnett, 41, of Voorhees.
Urbanski made more than $113,600 and cost the Pharmacy Benefits Association more than a quarter-million dollars, according to federal documents.
Hodnett made nearly $270,000, and cost the association almost $1.5 million, his documents show
Robert Bessey, 43, of Philadelphia, also pleaded guilty Thursday, admitting he made more than $485,000 recruiting “patients,” which included police officers, firefighters, teachers and even a state trooper.
But Pepper is the first of those employees to admit to the crime.
“He was a good employee for the Fire Department,” Fire Chief Scott Evans told BreakingAC. “It was a surprise.”
Pepper, 45, of Northfield, resigned Aug. 6.
Defense attorney Joseph Levin said this should not define his client.
“Everyone makes mistakes,” he said. “(He) has otherwise been an exemplary person who has served our country, state and community with honor and distinction.”
Friday’s plea shows that Pepper has acknowledged his mistake and accepted full responsibility,” Levin said.
“He has started the process of remediation by pleading guilty, by agreeing to forfeiture, by promising to pay restitution and by taking other positive action,” he said.
Levin then asked that Pepper’s privacy be respected at this time.
Pepper made about $113,627.54 from the crime, according to the federal information on Pepper. He caused the Pharmacy Benefits Administrator to pay out more than $719,000.