Northfield man on trial in compound drug scheme says he believed surgery was ‘legit’ | Crime

CAMDEN – Thomas Sher, a Northfield man accused of participating in a multimillion-dollar state health care fraud scheme, said in federal court on Tuesday that he entered into the operation thinking it was a legal business activity.

“I had no idea it was a health care fraud,” Sher said during his trial when asked why he followed his brother, Michael Sher, into the scheme.

Thomas Sher, 50, faces health care fraud charges for participating in a scheme run by William Hickman, a South Jersey pharmaceutical salesman.

Federal investigators said the operation cost taxpayer-funded health insurance programs nearly $50 million.

Thomas Sher claims that as a fitness trainer and health enthusiast, he had no ill will in endorsing the general use of compound supplements, saying he believed they would improve overall health.

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He said he initially did not understand why the FBI was questioning him when investigating the operation.

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“I never thought there was a fraud situation,” Thomas Sher said, adding that he stopped marketing the products after being questioned by federal agents.

Thomas Sher, who testified before U.S. District Court Judge Robert Kugler for more than an hour, was one of the last witnesses to testify in a nearly two-week trial, which is set to resume Wednesday for closing arguments. , after which the jury will begin to deliberate.

Several South Jersey residents have been linked to the scheme, which authorities say used recruiters and their associates to make money from useless compound drug prescriptions filled by doctors, most often Margate Dr John Gaffney and his partner, Dr. Lawrence Anastasi.

Michael and John Sher, Thomas Sher’s brothers, have pleaded guilty and are expected to be sentenced later this year.

Several character witnesses also testified Tuesday about Thomas Sher’s reputation, saying he was not a criminal.

Thomas Sher, a former Margate firefighter with his two brothers, was known in the community as a fitness enthusiast, training people through programs he started at local gyms. He was then approached by Michael Sher to consider a new way to make money.

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“Until these allegations I didn’t know anything negative about Tom,” said Harold Buckberg, of Northfield, who called Thomas Sher a friend for about 12 years.

Thomas Sher also earned commissions for prescriptions he filled for himself, saying it was a way to try the product.

“After he (Michael) showed me, it looked like something I was going to get into,” Thomas Sher said of his decision to join the Compound Drug Operation.

The prosecution, meanwhile, argued that Thomas Sher did not seek out the product he touted to family, friends and colleagues who shared a similar state-provided health plan.

Thomas Sher admitted he had little to no experience with compound supplements, viewing them only as daily vitamins comparable to those sold by retailer GNC.

“You’re marketing something you had no idea what it was?” Assistant United States Attorney Christina Hud told Thomas Sher during her testimony.

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“No,” Sher replied, saying he had given his customers a brochure on the supplements.

From March to December 2015, Thomas Sher received more than $93,000 in commission from Michael, Thomas Sher’s brother testified last week.

Thomas Sher then paid his clients, but he said those payments were for referrals similar to what he would see while working as a nurse recruiter at a company called MedStaff.

“I thought it was part of the marketing plan at the time,” Thomas Sher said.

Dozens of people who received compound drugs, including Nick and Samantha Grasso, testified last week about how Thomas Sher would approach them, saying he could offer them a product that could help with weight loss.

Most said they received compound prescriptions delivered to their doorstep and shipped from Central Rexall Drugs, a pharmacy in Hammond, Louisiana.

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Thomas Sher’s lawyer, Joseph Grimes, argued that his client wanted his practice to be a legitimate operation.

“I think the community holds Tom in the highest regard,” Andrew Miller, a Philadelphia defense witness who has known Thomas Sher and his family from his Jersey Shore time, said during his testimony Tuesday.

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