FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
Former Employee of Williamsburg Pharmacy and Wife Indicted
For Stealing $3.7 million from Owners in Eight-year Embezzlement Scheme
Took Advantage of Sick Absentee Owners; Opened Fraudulent Business Accounts, Deposited Insurance Money and Used it for Travel, Mortgages and other Personal Expenses
Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a Queens husband and wife have been indicted on charges of grand larceny, criminal possession of a forged instrument, falsifying business records and identity theft for allegedly stealing nearly $3.7 million over eight years from the sick absentee owners of a Williamsburg pharmacy where the husband worked. The defendants allegedly deposited insurance payments to the pharmacy into fraudulent accounts they had created and spent the money on a wide range of personal expenses.
Acting District Attorney Gonzalez said, “These defendants allegedly committed a theft not only on a huge scale – amounting to almost $3.7 million over eight years – but also in a reprehensible manner, taking advantage of their seriously ill employers who had entrusted them with the family business. With today’s indictment, we plan to hold the defendants fully accountable for their shameful acts.”
The Acting District Attorney identified the defendants as Jorge Vergara, 43, and his wife, Vanhia Narvaez, 44, both of Jackson Heights, Queens. The defendants were arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Evelyn LaPorte on one count of first-degree grand larceny, four counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, four counts of first-degree falsifying business records and four counts of first-degree identity theft. The defendants were ordered held on $2.5 million bail and to return to court on September 6, 2017. They face up to 25 years in prison if convicted of the top count with which they are charged.
The Acting District Attorney said that, according to the indictment, in 2007, Rafael Abreu, the owner of Gardner’s Pharmacy, located at 371 Broadway in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, became severely ill and unable to run the business. Soon after, in April of that year, Power of Attorney was granted to Abreu’s daughter, Gloria Adorno, making her Principal of Gardner’s Pharmacy. Adorno, however, was becoming increasingly responsible for the care of her father and decided to leave much of the pharmacy’s operation to defendant Vergara, the pharmacy’s long-time manager. Soon, Adorno became ill herself, and Vergara took over all day-to-day operation of the business.
The Acting District Attorney said that, according to the indictment, the defendants allegedly used the money for a range of personal expenses, including payments on personal credit card bills, auto loans, school tuition, mortgages, checks to their personal accounts and extensive domestic travel, to casinos and numerous vacation destinations around the country, including Disney World. The defendants even used the money to help finance a competing pharmacy that Vergara opened on the same block as Gardner’s Pharmacy.
According to the indictment, starting in February 2008, shortly after Vergara took over regular operation of the business, and continuing over the course of approximately eight years, the defendants allegedly used the identity of Gardner’s Pharmacy, as well as forged New York State Department of State documents, to open four fraudulent business checking accounts in Gardner’s Pharmacy’s name – all without the permission and authority of Abreu or Adorno. Over that time, the defendants allegedly deposited 934 checks made out to Gardner’s Pharmacy, totaling $3,697,399.35, into these accounts. These checks were insurance company payments to Gardner’s Pharmacy, resulting from prescription medications customers bought at the pharmacy using their health insurance.
The Acting District Attorney said that, according to the indictment, the defendants allegedly opened the first fraudulent account in February 2008 at Commerce Bancorp (now TD bank), which they opened by Vergara misrepresenting himself as President of Gardner’s Pharmacy Inc. The defendants deposited $426,588.70 in insurance checks made out to Gardner’s Pharmacy Inc. into this account between February 2008 and June 2009, withdrawing all but approximately $12,000. In June 2009, the defendants allegedly opened a second account, with Everbank, this time forging Abreu’s signature. They deposited and withdrew at least $1,706,517.20 in insurance checks via this account between June 2009 and November 2012. The next month, in December 2012, the defendants allegedly opened a third account, at Bank of Internet, again forging Abreu’s signature and going on to deposit and withdraw $628,562.31 until March 2014. Finally, in May 2014, the defendants opened a fourth account, at Flushing Bank, forging Abreu’s signature on documents. The defendants deposited $935,731.14 into the account until November 2015, with withdrawals continuing until the account was virtually empty in March 2016.
According to the indictment, Adorno was alerted to the alleged embezzlement sometime after Vergara resigned from the pharmacy. At this point, as Adorno was spending more time managing the business, she began to notice mail and other documents from banks she didn’t recognize.
The case was investigated by New York City Police Department Detective Kenneth Giallanza, of the 90th Precinct Detectives Squad.
The case was also investigated by Supervising Financial Investigator Deborah Wey, of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney James Mariani, with the assistance of Assistant District Attorney Cooper Gorrie, both of the District Attorney’s Cyber Crimes Unit, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Dana Roth, Deputy Chief of the Frauds Bureau, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Deputy Chief of the Investigations Division.
An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.