Margate firefighter pleads guilty in prescription fraud case
A former firefighter made more than $1.7 million for his part in a far-reaching prescription fraud case that caused the Downbeach community millions.
Michael Sher, 40, of Northfield, admitted to his role in Camden Federal Court on Thursday, just days after he resigned from the Margate City Fire Department, becoming the city’s first employee to plead.
He is the 16th person to plead guilty in the scheme that had doctors writing prescriptions for expensive — but unnecessary — compounds that paid off with thousands through public employee insurance.
“Michael Sher paid kickbacks to patients, gave an envelope of cash to a medical doctor who caused thousands of fraudulent compounded medication prescriptions to be filled, and actively recruited others below him as part of the conspiracy to defraud New Jersey state health benefits programs,” U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said. “It is unconscionable for a public servant to defraud the very public he swore to protect, yet that is exactly what Michael Sher did. The defendants convicted in this case include two firefighters, a guidance counselor, a teacher, a medical doctor, and several pharmaceutical employees, which speaks to the extensive network employed by this conspiracy and the efforts of federal and state law enforcement partners to bring this wasteful and brazen scheme to an end.”
Margate Dr. John Gaffney was one of those who previously pleaded guilty. Those awaiting sentencing include pharmaceutical representatives, a former Atlantic City firefighter and two teachers.
Sher has been a firefighter since 2005, according to his LinkedIn page.
“Firemen take an oath to uphold the law,” Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher of the Newark FBI Field Office said. “The FBI works to ensure that they are held accountable when they violate that pledge and break the law. The guilty plea by Michael Sher sends a clear message that the FBI and our law enforcement partners will relentlessly pursue those who defraud the State Health Benefits Program, which ultimately affects the hardworking citizens of New Jersey.”
Sher recruited others into the conspiracy, according to the admission.
“Sher’s co-conspirators paid him to engage in this criminal conduct,” said Peter Nozka, Acting Special Agent in Charge, New York Region, U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to aggressively investigate illegal prescription drug schemes, particularly when they impact patients of programs administered by the Department of Labor”
Sher received about $1,728,372.29 for his role in the scheme.
He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. As part of his plea agreement, Sher must forfeit his criminal proceeds and pay restitution in an amount to be determined at sentencing, which is scheduled for June 8.
Sher also apparently went into real estate several years ago, having been an appraisal trainee at DCS Appraisals starting in 2009. He also started his own business in May 2013 as MJS Premier Homes.