HIV drug scam: NYC doctor busted for doling out meds patients didn't need, prosecutors say
Michael Jaccarino AND Melissa Grace
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
Friday, June 3rd 2011, 3:12 PM
Suresh Hemrajani, 57, pleaded not guilty to grand larceny and health care fraud Friday and posted $200,000 bond after appearing before Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Carol Berkman.
The charges against Hemrajani followed the indictment of 30 people, all poor Medicaid patients who were recruited off the streets by middlemen, "sometimes 10 at a time," according to court records.
Hemrajani, who lives in a $610,000 White Plains home, was arrested after prosecutors won convictions against 17 of the patients - even securing state prison sentences against some. Many of them are cooperating in the probe, sources said.
The comparatively late prosecution of Hemrajani, who was allegedly at the center of the scam, brought a sharp rebuke from the judge.
He called the putative patients "poor people who were unable to resist the lure of a few easy bucks."
"[That] the people didn't seem to be pursuing the doctor always was a matter of some frustration to the court as well as actually the other defense lawyers," said Berkman. "Where is the doctor? Where is the doctor? I can't tell you how many times I heard that."
A press release issued Friday by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance offered no indication of the scope of the alleged 2008 scam - which the judge revealed.
While the DA's office declined comment on what it termed an ongoing investigation, a source said the delay in prosecuting Hemrajani was caused by the time necessary to build a case involving so many patients.
The office said more patients could be busted.
Hemrajani's lawyer did not return a telephone call for comment. His wife also had no comment.
"I kind of feel bad for him because he doesn't look like he's built for that kind of environment - getting arrested and going to jail," said Adam ¬Diaz, the building superintendent where Hemrajani has an office.
Officials said the recruited patients were brought to the doctor's office where Hemrajani wrote them prescriptions for HIV meds without even conducting an exam.
The patients, who used Medicaid to pay for the prescriptions, were paid cash for the meds by a middleman, who in turn sold the drugs on the black market.
Hemrajani also wrote monthly prescriptions for the patients - whom he never saw again - that were filled at pharmacies, court records show.
The scam was uncovered when some of the patients later tried to get additional prescriptions for HIV drugs from a hospital, where they were tested and found to be HIV-negative, prosecutors said.
Hemrajani faces up to 15 years behind bars.
His White Plains neighbors were shocked by the accusations.
"They are the lowest-key people you'd ever meet. I'm stunned. I thought he was a gynecologist," said a next-door neighbor who only gave her first name, Nancy.
"College must be very expensive these days," she said, adding the doctor has a college-age daughter.