A former advanced practice nurse from Pennsville has admitted to defrauding state and local health benefits programs and other insurers by submitting fraudulent claims for medically unnecessary prescriptions.

Attorney for the United States Vikas Khanna says 66-year-old Ashley Lyons-Valenti of Swedesboro pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of conspiring to commit health care fraud.

Lyons-Valenti was previously charged with 49-year-old Vincent Tornari of Linwood and 44-year-old Brian Sokalsky of Margate in a 33-count indictment in June 2020.

The charges against Tornari and Sokalsky remain pending and they are set to go to trial later this year.

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According to court documents and statements made in court,

Lyons-Valenti was previously an advanced practice nurse at a medical office in Pennsville, New Jersey. At the same time, Tornari hired Lyons-Valenti’s live-in boyfriend to be a sales representative for his company which promoted compound medications, even though Lyons-Valenti’s boyfriend had no background or experience in medicine and pharmaceutical sales. Tornari and Lyons-Valenti’s boyfriend had an agreement that the boyfriend would receive a commission on all prescriptions authorized by Lyons-Valenti. Lyons-Valenti then authorized numerous medically unnecessary prescription medications associated with Tornari and her boyfriend – including for her patients, staff members and co-workers at the medical office where she worked, and her children – for the sole purpose of financially benefitting herself, her boyfriend, and Tornari. In exchange for authorizing the prescriptions, Lyons-Valenti’s boyfriend paid her half of his commissions that he received from Tornari.

Compounded medications are specialty medications mixed by a pharmacist to meet the specific medical needs of a patient.

Federal authorities say as a result of the scheme,

  • Health insurance paid over $1.2 million for medically unnecessary medications
  • Lyons-Valenti received over $90,000 in kickbacks for signing the prescriptions

As part of her plea agreement, Lyons-Valenti also admitted to attempting to obstruct or impede the administration of justice with respect to the investigation of the healthcare fraud conspiracy by trying to influence the testimony of a grand jury witness.

Lyons-Valenti faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Sentencing is scheduled for July 11th.

The public is reminded that charges are accusations and all persons are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

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