TRENTON — A federal grand jury has returned a 50-count indictment charging seven people with defrauding New Jersey's state health benefits program and other insurers out of over $50 million.

Two of the people charged were Margate City firefighters, one is with the Camden Fire Department and one a police officer in Ventnor City, according to the indictment, which listed a Margate City firefighter as a co-conspirator.

According to the indictment, New Jersey state and local government and education employees, including teachers, firefighters, municipal police officers, and state troopers were paid to obtain very expensive and medically unnecessary compounded medications from a Louisiana pharmacy between July 2014 and April 2016

The compounds included pain, scar, antifungal, and libido creams, as well as vitamin combinations which were reimbursed for thousands of dollars for a one-month supply.

Compounded medications are specialty medications mixed by a pharmacist to meet the specific medical needs of an individual patient. Although compounded drugs are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, they are properly prescribed when a physician determines that an FDA-approved medication does not meet the health needs of a particular patient, such as if a patient is allergic to a dye or other ingredient.

William Hickman, 42; Sara Hickman, 42; Thomas Schallus, 42; Thomas Sher, 46, all of Northfield; Brian Pugh, 41, of Absecon; John Sher, 37, of Margate City; and Christopher Broccoli, 47, of West Deptford were charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud and with individual acts of health care fraud and wire fraud.

William and Sara Hickman and Pugh also were charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and individual acts of money laundering.

The defendants are expected in Camden federal court on Friday afternoon.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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