Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie

HARTFORD, CT — Three years ago, when state Comptroller Kevin Lembo saw the cost of compound pharmaceuticals skyrocketing, he alerted Attorney General George Jepsen whose office filed a lawsuit Tuesday against a former Correction officer, his ex-wife, 11 other state employees, and a Florida-based company at the center of an alleged pyramid scheme.

Assured Rx, the Florida-based compounding company named as the lead defendant, used Nicholas Maulucci, a retired Correction Officer from Simsbury, and his ex-wife, Lisette Maulucci — also known as Lisette Martinez — to recruit state employees and retirees to use and market compound medications, according to the complaint.

The complaint served Tuesday states that the Mauluccis received a total of $2.65 million in compensation for their role in the scheme, which cost Connecticut taxpayers $10.9 million. The Mauluccis in turn used a portion of those funds to pay kickbacks to the other individuals they recruited into the scheme.

At the moment a total of 11 current and former state employees, mostly from the Correction Department, are also named as defendants in the complaint. Each of the employees was paid between $12,000 and up to $47,000 in kickbacks to purchase the compound drugs from Assured RX through the state’s Pharmacy Benefit Plan.

Compound drugs are specialty drugs that combine two or more substances and are made specifically for an individual. They can cost more than $10,000 for a one-month prescription and they are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Several attempts were made to contract Assured Rx by phone and email Tuesday. The calls were redirected and when no one picked up the phone it was disconnected.

Lembo’s office was the first to notice and report on the increase in compound drug claims.

Ctnewsjunkie file photo

In 2015, Lembo said the state had seen the use of compound drug claims skyrocket from $800,000 per year through 2012 to $24 million in 2015. As a result, in May 2015 they began to require prior authorization for a compound prescription and they immediately saw the cost to the state drop.

“Today’s action should send a clear-cut message: When you defraud the state’s health plan, you will get caught and you will face consequences,” Lembo said Tuesday. “We will continue to root out waste and fraud to ensure that tax dollars are spent responsibly.”

Lembo added that “this misuse of state health benefits diverted scarce state resources and compromised the welfare of the state health plan and those individuals and families who depend on it for essential health care.”

Jepsen’s office said there are other marketers who are not named as defendants who also arranged for prescriptions of Assured Rx compound prescription drugs for themselves as well as for certain covered family members and others. The state alleges that these marketers are alleged to have cost the Pharmacy Benefit Plan a total of $5.74 million in prescriptions and were allegedly paid $230,764 for their roles in the scheme. Legal action is possible against these or other culpable individuals as the state’s investigation proceeds.

“The fraud we are alleging in this lawsuit is simply egregious,” Jepsen said. “Our investigation has developed evidence that we believe clearly shows how a number of former and current state employees, led by Nicholas and Lisette Maulucci, defrauded the state employee pharmacy plan to the tune of millions of dollars in exchange for their receipt of kickbacks from Assured Rx for these extremely expensive compounded drugs.”

Assistant Attorney Robert Teitelman says in the lawsuit that Connecticut’s Pharmacy Benefit Plan would not have approved or paid for the prescriptions had it known that these plan beneficiaries were being paid kickbacks by Assured Rx in exchange for arranging for the prescriptions for the compound drugs.

Teitelman said the doctors who prescribed the compound medications were also unaware of the kickback scheme.

The state is asking the court to impose a civil penalty on each of the defendants and is seeking to recover three times the amount of damages that Connecticut sustained because of the actions of defendants.

The lawsuit has been served, but not filed yet in Hartford Superior Court.

The other named defendants and the amount of money they are alleged to have taken is listed below:

• Carol Boardman-Scruse, of Bloomfield, Conn., an employee of the state Department of Developmental Services, is alleged to have cost the Pharmacy Benefit Plan a total of $317,791 in prescriptions for herself and a family member, and was allegedly paid $27,500 for her role in the scheme.

• Ricardo Collazo, of Bloomfield, Conn., a retiree of the state Department of Correction, is alleged to have cost the Pharmacy Benefit Plan a total of $615,366 in prescriptions for himself and a family member, and was allegedly paid $24,600 for his role in the scheme.

• James Corcoran, of Wethersfield, Conn., a retiree of the state Department of Correction, is alleged to have cost the Pharmacy Benefit Plan a total of $231,850 in prescriptions for himself, and was allegedly paid $12,000 for his role in the scheme.

• Benjamin Franco, of East Haven, Conn., a retiree of the state Department of Correction, and his spouse, Jill Franco, are alleged to have cost the Pharmacy Benefit Plan a total of $524,542 in prescriptions for themselves and a family member, and Jill Franco was allegedly paid $27,700 for their role in the scheme.

• Paul Germano, of Berlin, Conn., a retiree of the state Department of Correction, is alleged to have cost the Pharmacy Benefit Plan a total of $241,437 in prescriptions for himself and family members, and was allegedly paid $19,000 for his role in the scheme.

• Edward Heller, of Enfield, Conn., a retiree of the state Department of Correction, is alleged to have cost the Pharmacy Benefit Plan a total of $282,229 in prescriptions for himself and a family member, and was allegedly paid $17,500 for his role in the scheme.

• Joseph Heller, of Enfield, Conn., a retiree of the state Department of Correction, is alleged to have cost the Pharmacy Benefit Plan a total of $377,345 in prescriptions for himself and family members, and was allegedly paid $15,500 for his role in the scheme.

• Francis Mancini, of Southwick, Mass., a retiree of the state Department of Correction, and his spouse, Sarah Mancini, are alleged to have cost the Pharmacy Benefit Plan a total of $ 525,307 in prescriptions for themselves, and were allegedly paid a total of $47,400 for their role in the scheme.

• Todd Sokolowski, of Stafford Springs, Conn., a retiree of the state Department of Correction, is alleged to have cost the Pharmacy Benefit Plan a total of $380,304 in prescriptions for himself and a family member, and was allegedly paid $16,900 for his role in the scheme.

• Todd Vining, of Enfield, Conn., a retiree of the state Department of Correction, is alleged to have cost the Pharmacy Benefit Plan a total of $561,643 in prescriptions for himself and a family member, and was allegedly paid $17,800 for his role in the scheme.

• Joyce Wright, of East Longmeadow, Mass., a retiree of the state Department of Correction, is alleged to have cost the Pharmacy Benefit Plan a total of $270,578 in prescriptions for herself, and was allegedly paid $14,000 for her role in the scheme.