Woman convicted in ‘cream scheme’ files $5M suit for prison treatment

The first person jailed as part of the sprawling medical fraud scheme is suing the United States and several federal prison officials for $5 million due to her alleged treatment while incarcerated. 

Kristie Masucci is asking for more than twice the $2.26 million the former Ocean County prescription drug representative owes for her admitted role in the crime that landed her in prison for nearly two years.

At her sentencing in August 2019, Masucci admitted peddling $1.88 million of medically unnecessary compounded drug prescriptions paid for by taxpayer-funded medical insurance programs. 

She also admitted to personally receiving $388,608 in compensation for recruiting “patients” who agreed to get the drugs, which often came in the form of rub-in creams. Her pleading did not directly identify her confederates, but subsequent admissions have linked to a drugstore in Hammond, La., and a network of recruiters in Atlantic County led by William Hickman, now a Linwood resident.

Masucci was contrite and apologetic during her five-hour sentencing, pleading for mercy. The former drug rep told U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler, “I’m ashamed and embarrassed. This has left me feeling completely broken,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

She asked the judge if she could serve her time in or near Connecticut. She was sent to the state’s Federal Correctional Institution, Danbury, from Jan. 2, 2020, until Sept. 14, 2021. 

Masucci contracted COVID-19 there in early June 2020 and was ill for two weeks.

What happened while she was sick with the virus is the core of her lawsuit. But she also makes an allegation against the prison’s male physician, alleging she was sexually assaulted during a gynecological exam. 

After contracting the virus five months into her term, Masucci was housed in solitary in the nearby men’s section of the facility because the female section of the prison had so many patients requiring isolation, and there was no other plan in place. 

Additionally, prison leaders did not follow orders from then-U.S. Attorney General William Barr granting early releases of non-violent prisoners to allow them to serve out sentences in home confinement. 

Ironically, the U.S. attorney general oversees both the federal prison system and the attorneys who prosecuted Masucci and all the many others in the cream scheme.

Reinforcing the seriousness of the COVID outbreak in prison, U.S. District Judge Michael P. Shea, sitting in Connecticut, also ordered prisoner releases and home confinement due to COVID issues. 

Prison officials ignored both Barr and Shea, news accounts show.

Rather than be sent back to her residence in Tuckerton for home confinement, Masucci was put in solitary around June 3, 2020, according to the suit. 

“During this confinement, Plaintiff was not seen by a doctor, no one took her temperature, (she) suffered freezing temperatures, and was not permitted to shower for two weeks, among a number of unconstitutionally dangerous conditions,” the lawsuit reads.

Her anxiety medication was withheld while in solitary confinement at the men’s portion of the prison even though she “for years suffered anxiety and required constant monitoring and regular treatment,” the lawsuit also contends.

“She was diagnosed with anxiety before she began her term of incarceration,” the suit continues, “and has been under the care of highly qualified and credentialed psychiatrists her entire adult life.” 

According to the suit, conditions at Danbury “exacerbated” her anxiety disorder, and the facility’s layout did not allow for adequate social distancing.

The suit alleges Dr. Robert Greene Jr. examined Masucci in prison without a nurse by his side, as protocol required. Through an attorney for the federal prison system, Greene declined to comment. The attorney also suggested filing a Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, to pose questions. Those can take months and sometimes years.

The suit’s COVID allegations appear to have independent corroborations.

Michael Carvajal was forced out as Bureau of Prisons director at the start of this year.

For instance, Michael Carvajal was forced out as the Bureau of Prisons director at the start of this year. Several federal legislators held damaging Capitol Hill hearings and harshly criticized the 32-year veteran of system. Carvajal resigned.

But that’s not all.

Danbury Warden Diane Easter attracted heavy negative media attention from the New York Times and several nonprofit news organizations based in Connecticut over COVID issues at the prison.

Judge Shea squarely blamed the warden, who is no longer at the facility. The inmate who answered the prison phone said he could not address why. 

Said Judge Shea: “(B)y failing to make meaningful use of her home confinement authority, the Warden has failed to implement what appears to be the sole measure capable of adequately protecting vulnerable inmates — a measure the Attorney General directed the (Bureau of Prisons) to implement ‘immediately’ and with ‘dispatch’ — in favor of measures that, even if they were fully and painstakingly implemented, would still leave vulnerable inmates subject to a grave risk to their health.”

The New York Times reported there were times when more than half of the female inmates at Danbury had COVID.

Greene, Carvajal and Easter are each named individually in the suit, which New Haven lawyer Alexander T. Taubes filed May 15.

Taubes has yet to respond to repeated requests for comment via phone, text and email. 

Masucci’s lawyer in the cream scheme case, Amy Luria, who practices in Roseland, Essex County, declined comment. 

Masucci could not be located.

Fifty people in all have been charged in the inter-related cream scheme cases. 

Two additional men were under suspicion, most notably Dr. James Kauffman.

Both men committed suicide before being charged in the cream scheme. The other suspected participant was a firefighter who ran in front of a train. Kauffman hung himself while in custody for the murder of his wife, April, a killing done to protect an Oxycontin ring he ran from his medical office with the aid of outlaw bikers.

About half of those who have pleaded guilty have still not been sentenced. Some have been waiting for more than five years. 

Three key out-of-state players who allegedly masterminded and controlled the scheme still do not even have a trial date set. Documents in their case run between 1 million and 1.3 million pages a recent Zoom conference conducted by Kugler revealed.

The Feds have alleged planning for the pyramid scam began in 2013, and action began in 2014. 

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