NJ Transit board member among 3 charged in scam targeting employees, prosecutor says | #phishing | #scams

An NJ Transit conductor and board member, his wife and her nephew, who also works for the agency, were charged in a nearly $900,000 insurance fraud scheme, prosecutors said Thursday.

David Rasmussen, 55, a train conductor nominated last year by Gov. Phil Murphy for a non-voting seat on NJ Transit’s Board of Directors as a rail union representative, was arrested along with his wife, Suzanne Rasmussen, 52, at their Woodbridge home, according to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.

Suzanne Rasmussen’s nephew, Raymond Giovannone, 33, was arrested at NJ Transit’s Newark headquarters, officials said. Giovannone also works as a conductor for NJ Transit.

The trio face charges of conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and one count of theft by deception in a scheme to defraud NJ State Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the health insurance provided for state employees, according to prosecutors.

“NJ TRANSIT is working in coordination with the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office and defers all questions about the investigation to the Prosecutor’s Office,” NJ Transit spokeswoman Nancy Snyder said.

David Rasmussen and Giovannone were both “removed from service and suspended without pay until further notice,” Snyder wrote in an email.

Rasmussen’s status on the NJ Transit board was not immediately clear. Nominated in January 2020 and confirmed by the state Senate, Rasmussen has been a conductor for more than three decades, according to his biography on NJ Transit’s website.

“The Governor is extremely disturbed by the charges against David Rasmussen, which represent a serious breach of the public trust. The Governor expects that Mr. Rasmussen will immediately resign from the NJ TRANSIT Board of Directors,” a spokesman for Murphy’s office, Michael Zhadanovsky, said.

David Rasmussen later resigned from the board, the spokesman said Thursday night.

The investigation came after NJ Transit was alerted by NJ State Blue Cross/Blue Shield and the FBI that its employees were targeted for a prescription fraud scam, Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens, II said in a statement.

“The scheme was allegedly carried out by using legitimate employees and their personal information to get doctors to write unnecessary prescriptions for compounded medications such as pain creams and scar creams following a telemedicine visit,” the prosecutor said.

The accused scammers allegedly received kickbacks for the unnecessary prescriptions, according to officials.

Prosecutors alleged that Suzanne Rasmussen recruited ten NJ Transit employees as part of the scam, leading to $889,857 being paid by the health insurance carrier, Stephens said. The fraud lasted from January 2016 to February 2017, prosecutors alleged.

The charges stem from a “larger criminal enterprise” involving other defendants prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, according to Essex County Assistant Prosecutor Cynthia Teller, who is handling the state’s case.

It was not immediately clear which federal case related to the charges in Essex County.

The trio was scheduled for their first court appearance Aug. 27, according to the prosecutor’s office. It was unclear if they had retained defense lawyers.

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Noah Cohen may be reached at ncohen@njadvancemedia.com.

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