True Crime Thursday – Baby Formula Fraud


Photo credit – Pexels Public Domain

By Debbie Burke


When there’s a chance for profit, fraudsters never let a crisis go to waste.

One recent emergency was the 2022 shortage of infant formula, especially worrisome for parents of babies who have allergies or who need medical specialty formulas.

Vladislov Kotlyer, 43, of Staten Island, NY, saw the crisis as a profit opportunity. From March 2019 to October 2022, he collected $1.9 million from fraudulent claims to medical insurers and formula suppliers.

The Justice Department Criminal Division, the FBI, and US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York reported:

According to court filings, Kotlyar submitted forged prescriptions and medical records for specialty baby formula that was paid for by health insurers. Kotlyar obtained prescriptions and medical records for infants who were prescribed specialty baby formula and forged those records to obtain additional specialty baby formula. After receiving the specialty baby formula, Kotlyar fabricated issues with the shipments, including falsely claiming they were damaged or the incorrect formula in order to obtain additional formula at no additional cost. As part of the scheme, Kotlyar and his co-conspirators submitted more than $1.9 million in fraudulent claims to health insurers, including during a national shortage of baby formula.

On March 16, 2023, in federal court, Kotlyar pleaded guilty to fraud, agreed to forfeit $1 million, and pay more than $738,000 in restitution. He faces up to 20 years in prison for mail fraud. 

No word about what happened to the baby formula that he obtained as a result of his false claims.

The CDC cautions: “If you buy infant formula online, only purchase from well-recognized distributors and pharmacies (not individual people or auction sites).”

TKZers: Anyone want to guess what happened to the extra formula?

Donated to an orphanage?

Sold out of a car trunk in a Walmart parking lot?

A really splashy gift for a baby shower?

Or something else?



This entry was posted in #truecrimethursday, fraud, Writing by Debbie Burke. Bookmark the permalink.

About Debbie Burke

Debbie writes the Tawny Lindholm series, Montana thrillers infused with psychological suspense. Her books have won the Kindle Scout contest, the Zebulon Award, and were finalists for the Eric Hoffer Book Award and Her articles received journalism awards in international publications. She is a founding member of Authors of the Flathead and helps to plan the annual Flathead River Writers Conference in Kalispell, Montana. Her greatest joy is mentoring young writers.

17 thoughts on “True Crime Thursday – Baby Formula Fraud

  1. I called Vladislov Kotlyer and asked him what he did with the formula. I had to send him five cartons of Camel cigarettes to get a straight (?) answer. Here is what he said:

    “In my country, Poeple’s Republik Bofustan, have it traditional beaverage, сумасшедшиймаресмилк, maked from fermented milk. That is what, my friend Sogei and me, we do with forumla. Pouring all cans of it in big vat and fermenting. Then we sell сумасшедшиймаресмилк on street coroners in San Fransico. Huboi! Those poeple will drinking ANYTHING.”

    • I am South African – the use of the word poeple made me laugh.

      NOUN South Africa slang

      1. the anus
      2. a foolish or despicable person

      Word origin

  2. Very clever, though not smart. I don’t see him selling it a box at a time. He probably unloaded it at a premium price to an independent grocery distributor/jobber servicing corner stores, bodegas, and similar establishments. It would be faster, easier, and ultimately more profitable.

    Thanks for sharing, Debbie. Have a great day!

    • Joe, the jobber explanation probably nails it. He evidently worked in medical care which gave him access to babies’ patient records. What a breach of confidentiality.

    • You are probably correct. Bodega/quick shop/ and the like. Cash under the table and then the double rip off, the shop sells at a mark up.

  3. Great post, Debbie. Very interesting and disturbing.

    I have no idea what VK did with all that illegally-obtained formula, but the next time I’m eating hypoallergenic, lactose-free ice, cream, yogurt, or cottage cheese, I’m checking the label. If it’s from VK Creamery in New York, I’m not eating it.

    Have a lactose-free day!

  4. Good morning, Debbie!

    Is there nothing too low for these scammers to try? I don’t know what happened to the extra formula, but I hope Mr. Kotlyar’s jail cell is equipped with all-night recordings of babies crying.

    • Kay, a brilliant idea for a punishment that fits the crime. I don’t believe he’s been sentenced yet so why don’t you write to the judge? 😉

  5. Scamming baby formula during that recent shortage is certainly vile. Sadly it’s also unsurprising, given the propensity of a few people to look for “easy money.” I’m with Joe that he probably sold the formula shipments to jobbers, easier and harder to backtrack then selling it online.

    I believe the vast majority of people are good and kind-hearted, but it only takes a few bad apples to cause problems.

    Thanks for another illuminating True Crime Thursday, Debbie! Hope you have a great rest of your week.

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