NJ.COM – Ex-union president admits role in health benefits fraud

A former union official accused in a scheme that allegedly defrauded Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield out of about $6.6 million faces up to five years in prison after pleading guilty to a less serious offense.

Former Passaic resident Sergio Acosta, 65, pleaded guilty Friday in federal court in Trenton to one count of theft/embezzlement of funds from an employee welfare benefit fund.

Acosta, who now lives in Utuado, Puerto Rico, also faces a fine of up to $250,000 when he is sentenced Sept. 21, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New Jersey said in a statement.

 Acosta served as the president of Edison-based United Auto Workers Local 2326 and was responsible for overseeing the local’s benefit plan during his time as president, federal officials said.

As the trustee of the union’s health plan, Acosta failed to collect money from the local union for four to five employees who were covered by the plan. He didn’t admit to personally receiving any money, his attorney Alan Sibler said.

Acosta’s alleged co-conspirator Lawrence Ackerman, 53, of Old Tappan, created two shell companies — Atlantic Business Associates and Atlantic Medical Associates — that he used to market healthcare insurance to people who weren’t actually employed by the companies.

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