A Staten Island man has admitted to participating in a $1.9 million baby formula scam, fraudulently obtaining specialty baby foods on prescription and reselling them, including during last year’s national baby formula shortage.
Vladislav Kotlyar, 44, pleaded guilty to mail fraud conspiracy in Brooklyn Federal Court on Thursday, admitting to committing a nearly four-year scheme.
He and his colleagues obtained medical records on infants who needed specialized prescriptions for issues including food allergies, then forged signatures on formula prescriptions and filed insurance claims, according to the feds.
Kotlyar worked for New York City Health + Hospitals, but there is no indication the scam was related to his job, law enforcement sources said.
His role in the agency could not be confirmed. NYC H+H did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the case.
Kotlyar shipped the formula to their addresses or to the addresses of the babies’ parents, then contacted the distributors to say they had shipped the wrong type of formula or a defective product.
As a result, the two distributors he and his colleagues contacted sent him replacement formula at no additional cost.
One insurer was billed $1.5 million in claims and another $434,000. One of the distributors sent $175,000 worth of replacement formula to make up for allegedly bad shipments, the feds said.
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The scheme continued from March 2019 until last October, including during last spring’s baby formula shortage in the US, made worse by the closure of a key factory run by Abbott Laboratories after the deaths of two babies led to a recall of Similac products. .
“I fraudulently obtained baby formula from insurance companies using the mail, through scripts that were forged, not the scripts, but only the signature was forged by myself,” Kotlyar told Judge William Kuntz.
“What I did was extremely wrong. I take full responsibility for what I have done. I would also like to apologize to everyone I have hurt,” she added. “This was my doing, and I apologize for that. Very sorry.”
The charge to which he pleaded guilty carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, but under the terms of his plea agreement, Kotlyar can appeal if Kuntz sentences him to more than 46 months.
Kotlyar has agreed to pay more than $930,000 in cash forfeiture and nearly $740,000 in restitution, Justice Department attorney Patrick Campbell said.
The judge did not set a sentencing date.
Kotlyar and his attorney, Richard Collins, declined to comment outside of the courtroom on Thursday.