A husband and wife were indicted yesterday for allegedly stealing nearly $3.7 million from the sick absentee owners of a Williamsburg pharmacy where the husband worked.
Jorge Vergara, 43, and his wife, Vanhia Narvaez, 44, of Jackson Heights, allegedly deposited insurance payments over the course of eight years into fraudulent accounts they had created and spent the money on a wide range of personal expenses, according to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office.
The funds, which should have gone to Gardner’s Pharmacy, allegedly went toward payments on the couple’s personal credit card bills, auto loans, mortgages, checks to their personal accounts and extensive domestic travel, to casinos and numerous vacation destinations around the country, including Disney World. The couple even used the money to help finance a competing pharmacy that Vergara opened on the same block as his employer, according to the District Attorney.
The couple is accused of grand larceny, criminal possession of a forged instrument, falsifying business records and identity theft. They were ordered held on $2.5 million bail and to return to court on Sept. 6. They face up to 25 years in prison if convicted.
“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,” Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said. “With today’s indictment, we plan to hold the defendants fully accountable for their shameful acts.”
The scheme allegedly began in 2007, when Rafael Abreu, the owner of Gardner’s Pharmacy, 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, needed to care for her father and decided to leave much of the pharmacy’s operation to Vergara, the pharmacy’s long-time manager. Soon, Adorno became sick herself, and Vergara took over the day-to-day operation of the business.
Shortly after Vergara took over in February 2008, and continuing over the course of approximately eight years, he and his wife 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.
During that time, the defendants allegedly deposited hundreds of 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.
Adorno became aware of the alleged embezzlement sometime after Vergara resigned from the pharmacy and she began managing it again.