Nurse Practitioner and Physician Indicted in Compounding Pharmacy Fraud Schemes

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A Mississippi-based nurse practitioner was charged in an indictment unsealed today for her role in a multi-million dollar scheme to defraud TRICARE, the health care benefit program serving U.S. military, veterans and their respective family members.  A Mississippi-based physician was charged in a separate indictment filed last week for his role in a similar scheme.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst of the Southern District of Mississippi, Special Agent in Charge Christopher Freeze of the FBI’s Jackson, Mississippi Field Division and Special Agent in Charge Jerome R. McDuffie of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) New Orleans Field Office made the announcement.

Susan Perry N.P., 58, of Grand Bay, Alabama, and Albert Diaz M.D., 78, of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, were charged in separate indictments returned on Oct. 18, in the Southern District of Mississippi, in Hattiesburg.  Perry’s indictment was unsealed upon her arrest and initial appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge John Gargiulo of the Southern District of Mississippi.  Perry is scheduled to be arraigned on Oct. 25, at 10:30 a.m., and Diaz is scheduled to be arraigned on Nov. 1, at 10:30 a.m., both before Judge Gargiulo.

Perry was charged in a 13-count indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, four counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to distribute and dispense a controlled substance, one count of distributing and dispensing of a controlled substance, one count of conspiracy to solicit and receive healthcare kickbacks, four counts of soliciting and receiving healthcare kickbacks and one count of making false statements.  Diaz was charged in a 16-count indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, four counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to distribute and dispense a controlled substance, four counts of distributing and dispensing a controlled substance, one count of conspiracy to falsify records in a federal investigation and five counts of falsification of records in a federal investigation.

The indictments allege that both Perry and Diaz participated in schemes to defraud TRICARE by prescribing medically unnecessary compounded medications, some of which included Ketamine, a controlled substance, to individuals they had not examined, for the purpose of having a Hattiesburg-based compounding pharmacy dispense these medically unnecessary compounded medications and to seek reimbursement from TRICARE.  According to the indictments, between February 2013 and October 2016, TRICARE reimbursed the compounding pharmacy more than $3.3 million for compounded medications prescribed by Perry, and between October 2014 and December 2015, TRICARE reimbursed the compounding pharmacy more than $2.3 million for compounded medications prescribed by Diaz.  Additionally, Perry is alleged to have received more than $50,000 in kickback payments from a marketer for the compounding pharmacy in return for prescribing the compounded medications, as well as having made false statements to the FBI.   Diaz is alleged to have submitted falsified patient records in response to an audit conducted by TRICARE to make it appear as though he had examined patients before prescribing the compounding medications.

An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The FBI, IRS-CI, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and other government agencies investigated the case.  Trial Attorneys Dustin M. Davis, Katherine Payerle and Jared Hasten of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Helen Wall of the Southern District of Mississippi are prosecuting the case.

The Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which is part of a joint initiative between the Department of Justice and HHS to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country.  The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operates in nine locations nationwide.  Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force has charged over 3,500 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for over $12.5 billion.

Baton Rouge-Based Medicare Fraud Strike Force Announces Charges Against Four More Individuals For Health Care Fraud And Related Offenses

Thursday, July 13, 2017

BATON ROUGE, LA – Acting United States Attorney Corey R. Amundson announced today the unsealing of two federal grand jury indictments charging four individuals with health care fraud and related offenses. The cases were unsealed as part of the 2017 National Health Care Fraud Takedown, during which federal, state, and local law enforcement partners announced charges of more than 400 defendants across 41 different federal judicial districts.

The Medicare Fraud Strike Force is part of the joint initiative announced in May 2009 between the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid fraud through enhanced cooperation. In December 2009, a Medicare Fraud Strike Force team was deployed in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Strike Force teams bring together the resources of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—Office of Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division—Fraud Section, the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, and other law enforcement agencies, including, in Baton Rouge, the Louisiana Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. Over the past seven years, the team has continued working in Baton Rouge and expanded across southern Louisiana.

Louisiana Spine & Sports

In the first case, a federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging John Eastham CLARK, M.D., age 65, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Charlene Anita SEVERIO, age 54, of Walker, Louisiana, with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and health care fraud. The charges stem from Dr. CLARK and SEVERIO’s role in a $4.4 million fraud scheme in which Dr. CLARK and SEVERIO allegedly submitted false claims to Medicare and private insurance companies on behalf of Louisiana Spine & Sports LLC, a pain management clinic in Baton Rouge co-owned by Dr. CLARK. Namely, according to the indictment, Dr. CLARK, and SEVERIO, his billing supervisor, falsified claims to indicate that certain minor surgical procedures occurred on separate days as patient visits, and then instructed employees to create false records substantiating those claims. The indictment also alleges that the defendants submitted false claims seeking reimbursement for medically unnecessary quantitative urinalysis tests. The indictment charges both defendants with two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and health care fraud, and charges Dr. CLARK with an additional two counts of health care fraud. This ongoing investigation is being handled by Dustin Davis, who serves as Assistant Chief of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division—Fraud Section, Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Ptashkin, and Jared Hasten of the Fraud Section.

Express ACA

In the second case, a federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging Keaton L. COPELAND, age 32, of Miramar, Florida, and Dorothy V. DELIMA, a/k/a Dorothy V. Copeland, age 45, of Davie, Florida, with a scheme to submit fraudulent health insurance applications to Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Louisiana and other private insurers. According to the indictment, the defendants owned and operated Express ACA, LLC, a health insurance brokerage company in Florida, and they devised a scheme to submit fraudulent health insurance applications to various insurers for health insurance plans that would satisfy the Affordable Care Act’s “minimum essential coverage” requirement. Specifically, according to the indictment, the defendants submitted numerous fraudulent applications for so-called “bronze plans,” the premiums for which were fully subsidized by the U.S. Government, without the named applicants’ knowledge, consent, or authorization. The indictment charges both COPELAND and DELIMA with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and five counts of wire fraud, and the indictment also charges COPELAND with additional counts of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. This ongoing investigation is being handled by Assistant United States Attorneys J. Brady Casey and Ryan R. Crosswell.

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Since its inception, the Baton Rouge-based Medicare Fraud Strike Force has charged more than 80 defendants with health care fraud and related offenses, achieving a 95% conviction rate and sending nearly 50 of those defendants to federal prison.

Acting U.S. Attorney Corey Amundson stated, “Our medical providers spend countless hours caring for our everyday ailments, improving and extending our lives, and often fighting for us in our most desperate hours. They are rightly viewed as some of the most trusted and respected members of our society. Too often, the few dishonest providers hijack this well-earned respect and trust to line their own pockets through fraud. My office, which has sent nearly 50 healthcare fraud defendants to federal prison since the inception of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, will continue to work tirelessly with our outstanding federal, state, and local partners to root out these bad actors. I greatly appreciate all those who have contributed to this important and successful law enforcement effort.”

“The indictments returned in both of these cases affirm our commitment to protecting the integrity of our nation’s health insurance programs,” said Special Agent-in-Charge C.J. Porter of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) Dallas Regional Office. “These investigations are also indicative of our continuing efforts to work closely with our Federal and State law enforcement partners to identify and bring to justice those who deliberately manipulate health insurance systems to fraudulently obtain money from Medicare, Medicaid and other federally funded health care programs.”

Jeffrey S. Sallet, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New Orleans Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, stated, “Countless Americans rely on the Medicare and Medicaid programs for essential health coverage. The New Orleans Division of the FBI, along with its local, state and federal partners, will continue to identify and pursue any individuals or entities who would seek to harm and diminish these programs through fraud.”

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry stated, “The success of this initiative shows that collaboration between law enforcement agencies at all levels combats crime. Our investigators work around the clock to fight waste, fraud, and abuse in Medicaid. My office and I are committed to doing all we can to save taxpayer money and protect this program for the people in our State that need it the most. I am proud of the results our team achieved during this operation and what we do daily to reduce Medicaid fraud.”

NOTE: An indictment is an accusation by the Grand Jury. The defendants are presumed innocent until and unless adjudicated guilty at trial or through a guilty plea.