The former principal of the Sussex Avenue School in Morris Township, who allowed students to coat him in slime for a school program last year, has pleaded guilty to a scheme that defrauded health plans of $2.7 million.
Peter Frazzano, 46, of Randolph admitted conspiring to defraud the New Jersey School Employees’ Health Benefits Program and the New Jersey State Health Benefits Plan, among other plans, between November 2014 and March 2016.
As part of a plea deal, Frazzano must forfeit $270,751 in criminal proceeds and pay restitution of $2,727,292. His sentencing before U.S. District Judge John Michael Vazquez is scheduled for Nov. 19. The conspiracy charge can be punished with up to 10 years in jail.
Frazzano resigned from the Morris School District in July 2018, said District Superintendent Mackey Pendergrast. He declined further comment.
According to U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito in Newark, the plot worked like this:
Frazzano and an unnamed conspirator recruited a doctor, whose name also has not been disclosed, to prescribe “compounded” medications such as scar creams, pain creams, and metabolic supplements, regardless of necessity and without examining or interacting with any of the people who were receiving the prescriptions.
These individuals–some of whom were beneficiaries of the state plans–also were recruited by Frazzano, who received commissions on their filled orders as a sales representative for an unnamed company.
A compounded medication is tailored to an individual’s needs–altered, for instance, because of a patient’s allergy to a certain ingredient, or to deliver a pill in liquid form if swallowing pills is a problem. The federal Food and Drug Administration does not approve compounded drugs or guarantee their potency and safety, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
In a 2018 personal disclosure statement filed with the state Department of Education’s School Ethics Commission, Frazzano listed sources of income that included Agnes RX Inc. of Tampa, FL; Isagenix of Gilbert, AZ; and Fusion Specialty Pharmacy of Santa Clara, UT.
The government’s lead on the case was Vikas Khanna, deputy chief of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark. Carpenito credited FBI agents headed by Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie with conducting the investigation leading to this week’s guilty plea. Attorney Joseph Shumofsky represented Frazzano.
Right up to his departure from the Morris School District, Frazzano appeared to have a bright future as an educator.
Under his leadership, the Sussex Avenue School (grades 3-5) was honored by the state in 2018 as one of only two National Title 1 Distinguished Schools in New Jersey. The award recognizes high achievement by academically disadvantaged pupils.
Frazzano, whose wife Cristina is principal of the Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in Morristown, was popular with students for his willingness to subject himself to good-natured abuse by students, to reward them for completing a reading challenge.
In 2016, Frazzano was feted for his commitment to SNAP (Special Needs Athletic Programs), a nonprofit founded by a district student to mentor children with autism.
“To be honest, I was shocked and extremely humbled,” Frazzano said at the time of the honor. “I do what I do because I truly care about all children, not for awards or recognition of any sort.”