Biloxi Physician Convicted for Role in $3 Million Compounding Pharmacy Fraud Scheme

Monday, March 5, 2018

A federal jury found a Biloxi, Mississippi physician guilty Friday for his role in an approximately $3 million compounding pharmacy fraud scheme.

Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney D. Michael Hurst Jr. of the Southern District of Mississippi; Special Agent in Charge Christopher Freeze of the FBI’s Jackson, Mississippi, Field Division and Acting Special Agent in Charge Ted Magee of Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) New Orleans Field Office made the announcement.

Albert Diaz, M.D., 78, was convicted of 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 following a five-day trial.  Sentencing has been scheduled for May 22, 2018 before U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett of the Southern District of Mississippi, who presided over the trial.

“Communities place extraordinary trust in medical professionals,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan.  “It is therefore particularly egregious when a physician compromises that trust, as Albert Diaz did when he played a pivotal role in causing millions of dollars in loss to our country’s health care programs.  The prosecution of Albert Diaz exemplifies the Criminal Division’s commitment to holding those involved in fraud schemes accountable for their actions.”

“When individuals defraud our military’s healthcare system TRICARE, harming the health and welfare of our men and women in uniform, they will be met with swift prosecution, severe punishment and the loss of their illicit gains,” said U.S. Attorney Hurst. “I applaud the tireless and determined work of these investigators and prosecutors in securing justice in this case.  Justice prevailed and justice will continue to roll.”

“In the past five years, health care fraud schemes have cost Mississippi taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Special Agent in Charge Freeze.  “Today’s verdict should send a strong message that the FBI will continue to expose and investigate those who exploit our health care system at the expense of the taxpayer, and especially physicians who contribute to addiction by prescribing unnecessary controlled substances.”

“The jury found Dr. Albert Diaz guilty of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, which sent a message to all criminals seeking to defraud insurance companies – we’re on to you and will hold you responsible for your crimes,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Magee.  “Dr. Diaz’s scheme to steal from TRICARE and other insurance companies not only cost the American taxpayers, but put the lives of his patients in danger.”

According to evidence presented at trial, between October 2014 and December 2015, Diaz participated in a scheme to defraud TRICARE and other insurance companies by prescribing medically unnecessary compounded medications, some of which included ketamine, a controlled substance, to individuals he had not examined.  The evidence further demonstrated that, based on the prescriptions signed by Diaz, Advantage Pharmacy in Hattiesburg, Mississippi dispensed these medically unnecessary compounded medications and sought and received reimbursement from TRICARE and other insurance companies totaling more than $3 million. The trial evidence further demonstrated that in response to a TRICARE audit, Diaz falsified patient records to make it appear as though he had examined patients before prescribing the medications.

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 Kate 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.

Mississippi Real Estate Investors Plead Guilty to Conspiracy to Rig Bids at Public Foreclosure Auctions

Thursday, February 15, 2018

First Convictions in Mississippi Real Estate Foreclosure Auctions Investigation

Two real estate investors pleaded guilty today for their roles in a conspiracy to rig bids at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Mississippi, the Department of Justice announced.

“Shannon and Jason Boykin are the first two defendants to plead guilty in the Antitrust Division’s active, ongoing investigation into anticompetitive behavior at real estate foreclosure auctions in Mississippi,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.  “In the past few years, the Division has secured convictions of over 100 individuals around the country.  The Division remains committed to rooting out anticompetitive conduct at foreclosure auctions.”

Felony charges against Shannon Boykin and Jason Boykin were filed on February 1, 2018, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi.  According to court documents, from at least as early May 22, 2012, through at least as late as March 22, 2017, Jason and Shannon Boykin conspired with others to rig bids, designating a winning bidder to obtain selected properties at public real estate foreclosure auctions in the Southern District of Mississippi. Co-conspirators made and received payoffs in exchange for their agreement not to bid.

“Rigging, cheating and swindling foreclosure auctions undermines confidence in the marketplace, defrauds companies, and hurts owners of foreclosed homes.  These criminal actions harm us all, and I commend the Antitrust Division and the FBI for their investigation and prosecution of these crimes throughout the country. This office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to combat illegal, anticompetitive behavior and protect victims,” said United States Attorney D. Michael Hurst, Jr. for the Southern District of Mississippi.

“The criminal actions of the defendants in this case provide a clear example of why enforcement of the Sherman Act remains necessary in maintaining a competitive field of commerce,” said Special Agent in Charge Christopher Freeze of the FBI in Mississippi. “The FBI will continue to work with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division in identifying such financial schemes that attempt to take advantage of the competitive process, including schemes targeting foreclosure auctions.”

The Department said that the primary purpose of the conspiracy was to suppress and restrain competition in order to obtain selected real estate offered at public foreclosure auctions at non-competitive prices.  When real estate properties are sold at these auctions, the proceeds are used to pay off the mortgage and other debt attached to the property, with remaining proceeds, if any, paid to the homeowner.  According to court documents, these conspirators paid and received money in connection with their agreement to suppress competition, which artificially lowered the price paid at auction for such homes.

A violation of the Sherman Act carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals. The maximum fine for a Sherman Act charge may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime if either amount is greater than the statutory maximum fine.

The investigation is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal II Section and the FBI’s Gulfport Resident Agency, with the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi.  Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions should contact Antitrust Division prosecutors in the Washington Criminal II Section at 202-598-4000, or visit https://www.justice.gov/atr/report-violations.

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.

Former Congressional Staffer Pleads Guilty to Extensive Fraud and Money Laundering Scheme

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A former congressional staffer pleaded guilty today for his role in  orchestrating a scheme to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from charitable foundations and the individuals who ran those foundations to pay for personal expenses and to illegally finance a former congressman’s campaigns for public office, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez of the Southern District of Texas.

Jason T. Posey, 46, formerly of Houston, and currently residing in Mississippi, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud, one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering before Chief U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal of the Southern District of Texas.  Sentencing is set for March 29, 2018.

According to admissions made in connection with Posey’s plea, Posey served as director of special projects and treasurer of the congressional campaign committee for former U.S. Congressman Stephen E. Stockman, 60, of the Houston, Texas area, from in or around January 2013 until in or around November 2013.  Posey admitted that, at Stockman’s direction, he and another congressional staffer, Thomas Dodd, 38, of the Houston, Texas area, illegally funneled $15,000 of charitable proceeds into Stockman’s campaign bank account and caused the campaign to file reports with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that falsely stated that the money was a contribution from their parents and from the staffers themselves.  According to Posey’s admissions, Stockman also directed Posey to send a letter to a charitable donor that falsely stated that the donor’s $350,000 donation had been used to support a charitable endeavor, when in fact the funds were actually used for other purposes, including Stockman’s campaigns for public office.

In connection with his plea, Posey also admitted that he and Stockman raised $450,571.65 to support Stockman’s 2014 Senate campaign by falsely representing to a donor that the funds would be used to support a legitimate independent expenditure by an independent advocacy group Posey created.  In fact, Posey admitted that Stockman personally directed and supervised the activities of the purportedly independent group, including the printing and mailing of hundreds of thousands of copies of a pro-Stockman publication to Texas voters.  Posey also admitted that he submitted a false affidavit to the FEC in order to conceal the scheme.

Dodd pleaded guilty on March 20 to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and conspiracy to make illegal conduit contributions and false statements to the FEC.  Stockman’s trial is scheduled to begin on Jan. 29, 2018.  The charges and allegations in this case are merely accusations.  Stockman is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The FBI and IRS-CI are investigating the case.  Trial Attorneys Ryan J. Ellersick and Robert J. Heberle of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Annis of the Southern District of Texas are prosecuting the case.

Cleveland Doctor Sentenced in Hospice Fraud Case

Monday, August 14, 2017

OXFORD, Miss. – Robert H. Norman, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi; Derrick L. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General; Christopher Freeze, Special Agent in Charge at the Federal Bureau of Investigationand Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood announced that:

Dr. Nathaniel Brown, 62, of Cleveland, Mississippi, was sentenced Thursday, August 10, 2017 before United States District Judge Neal B. Biggers, Jr. in Oxford, Mississippi. Dr. Brown was sentenced to serve thirty-nine (39) months in federal prison followed by three (3) years supervised release and ordered to pay $1,941,254 in restitution to the Medicare program.

In January, Dr. Brown pled guilty to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1347 & 1349. Brown admitted to referring patients who were not hospice appropriate to Milestone Hospice and Sandanna Hospice which led to $1,941,254 in Medicare payments to Milestone and Sandanna. Brown also admitted to receiving $47,750 in payments by check from the hospice owner in addition to cash payments.

Dr. Brown is a corrupt doctor who participated in a hospice scam to exploit patients and their families,” said Special Agent in Charge Derrick L. Jackson, of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General. “The verdict today should send a clear message to dishonest medical professionals who abuse our health care system – they will be caught and face significant criminal charges.”

“Joint investigations continue to be indispensable in the fight against fraud in healthcare benefit programs,” said Attorney General Jim Hood. “We will continue to work with our federal and state partners in this ongoing battle to protect the resources needed to serve our most vulnerable citizens.”

“It is important the Medicare fund is properly guarded against inappropriate billing by health care providers, and patients are receiving those services billed to Medicare,” said Christopher Freeze, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Mississippi. “The FBI will continue to take a strong stance against individuals who engage in health care fraud.”

This case was investigated jointly by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Clay Dabbs and Clay Joyner.

Pharmacist Pleads Guilty to Health Care Fraud Charges for Role in $192 Million Compounded Medication Scheme; Pharmacy Marketer Also Pleads Guilty

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Pharmacist in Charge of a Hattiesburg, Mississippi compounding pharmacy pleaded guilty today to health care fraud charges for his role in a scheme that defrauded TRICARE and private insurance companies out of at least $192 million in payments for medically unnecessary compounded medications.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Harold Brittain of the Southern District of Mississippi, Special Agent in Charge Christopher Freeze of the FBI’s Jackson Division, Special Agent in Charge Jerome R. McDuffie of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation’s New Orleans Field Office and John F. Khin and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service Southeast Field Office made the announcement.

May, 40, of Lamar County, Mississippi, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and money laundering before U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett of the Southern District of Mississippi. Sentencing has been scheduled for October 17 before Judge Starrett.

As part of his guilty plea, May admitted that he conspired with others to select compounded medication formulas based on profitability, rather than on effectiveness or patient need. He further admitted that he conspired with co-owners of the pharmacy to circumvent fraud prevention measures, such as collecting copayments, so that patients were incentivized to receive, and continue to receive, medically unnecessary medications.  According to plea documents, May dispensed these medically unnecessary compounded medications and caused fraudulent claims to be submitted to TRICARE, a health care program that benefits members of the U.S. armed forces, and other health care benefit programs. Based on these fraudulent claims, May and his co-conspirators received at least $192 million in reimbursements.

In a related case, Gerald Schaar, 46, of Biloxi, Mississippi, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud for his role in the scheme to defraud TRICARE. According to plea documents, Schaar admitted to soliciting physicians and other medical professionals to write prescriptions without seeing patients for medically unnecessary compounded medications dispensed by the pharmacy. According to the plea documents, Schaar further admitted to conspiring with others to falsify patient records to make it appear as though medical professionals had seen patients prior to the date prescriptions were written, when in reality, no examinations had occurred. As a result of the fraudulent prescriptions obtained by Schaar, and ultimately forwarded to the pharmacy, TRICARE reimbursed approximately $2.3 million in false and fraudulent claims submitted by the pharmacy. Sentencing for Schaar has been scheduled for October 17 before Judge Starrett.

This case was investigated by the FBI Jackson Division’s Hattiesburg Resident Agency, the IRS Criminal Investigation, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, and other government agencies. Trial Attorneys Dustin Davis and Katherine Payerle 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. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

Individuals who believe that they may be a victim in this case should visit the Fraud Section’s Victim Witness website for more information.

Clinical Psychologist and Owner of Psychological Services Centers Sentenced to 264 Months for Roles in $25 Million Psychological Testing Scheme Carried out Through Eight Companies in Four States

Friday, July 14, 2017

Two owners of psychological services companies, one of whom was a clinical psychologist, were sentenced yesterday for their involvement in a $25.2 million Medicare fraud scheme carried out through eight companies at nursing homes in four states in the Southeastern U.S.

The announcement was made by Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans of the Eastern District of Louisiana, Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey S. Sallet of the FBI’s New Orleans Field Office and Special Agent in Charge C.J. Porter of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Dallas Regional Office.

Rodney Hesson, 47, of Slidell, Louisiana, and Gertrude Parker, 63 of Slidell, Louisiana, were sentenced on July 13, to 180 months’ imprisonment and 84 months’ imprisonment by U.S. District Court Judge Carl J. Barbier of the Eastern District of Louisiana. Judge Barbier also ordered Hesson to pay $13,800,553.57 in restitution, and ordered Parker to pay $7,313,379.75 in restitution. The defendants were each convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to make false statements related to health care matters on January 24.

According to evidence presented at trial, Hesson and Parker’s companies, Nursing Home Psychological Services (NHPS) and Psychological Care Services (PCS), respectively, contracted with nursing homes in Alabama, Florida, Lousiana and Mississippi to allow NHPS and PCS clinical psychologists to provide psychological services to nursing home residents. Hesson and Parker caused these companies to bill Medicare for psychological testing services that these nursing home residents did not need or in some instances did not receive, the trial evidence showed. During trial, evidence was entered showing that between 2009 and 2015, NHPS and PCS submitted over $25.2 million in claims to Medicare, the vast majority of which were fraudulent, while Medicare paid more than $13.5 million on the fraudulent claims. The jury verdict included a money judgment of $8,956,278, as well as forfeiture of Hesson’s home and at least $525,629 in seized currency.

The case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG, and brought by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The case is being prosecuted by Senior Litigiation Counsel John Michelich and Trial Attorneys Katherine Raut and Katherine Payerle of the Fraud Section.

The Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force. Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged over 3,000 defendants who collectively have billed the Medicare program for over $11 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.

Surgical Practice Office Manager’s Boyfriend Sentenced to Nearly 6 Years in Prison for Embezzlement Conspiracy

Friday, July 14, 2017

BIRMINGHAM – A federal judge this week sentenced a Mississippi man to nearly six years in prison for conspiring with his girlfriend to steal more than $1 million from the Birmingham surgical practice where she worked, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Robert O. Posey and FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge David W. Archey.

U.S. District Court Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala sentenced ANTHONY T. MICHAEL, 43, of Jackson, Miss., to five years and 10 months in prison for conspiracy, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. Michael pleaded guilty to the charges in March. The judge ordered him to pay $1.2 million in restitution and to forfeit the same amount to the government as proceeds of illegal activity.

Michael conspired with Anntwine Moss, 51, of Bessemer, to steal from Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery of Alabama between 2006 and 2013. Moss was office manager for the practice during that time and she and Michael were romantically involved.

U.S. District Court Judge Karon O. Bowdre sentenced Moss in May to three years and five months in prison on five counts of wire fraud and four counts of tax evasion in the case. The judge ordered Moss to pay $987,375 in restitution to the practice and to forfeit the same amount to the government.

According to court documents, Moss stole from the surgical practice by using her authority as office manager to write unauthorized checks to herself and to Michael, make unauthorized direct deposits into her account, and use the company’s credit cards for unauthorized personal purchases for herself and Michael. Moss had authority over several key functions at the surgical practice including payroll, accounting, bookkeeping and managing the office’s budget. She falsified her personal tax returns for several years by failing to report to the IRS the illicit income she stole from the practice.

The FBI and IRS investigated the case, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Xavier O. Carter Sr. prosecuted.

U.S. Attorney Charges NW Alabama Compounding Pharmacy Sales Representatives in Prescription Fraud Conspiracy

Thursday, July 13, 2017

BIRMINGHAM – The U.S. Attorney’s Office on Wednesday charged two sales representatives for a Haleyville, Ala.,-based compounding pharmacy for participating in a conspiracy to generate prescriptions and defraud health care insurers and prescription drug administrators out of tens of millions of dollars in 2015.

Acting U.S. Attorney Robert O. Posey, FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge David W. Archey, U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge, Houston Division, Adrian Gonzalez, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, Special Agent in Charge Derrick L. Jackson, Defense Criminal Investigative Service Special Agent in Charge John F. Khin, and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Acting Special Agent in Charge James E. Dorsey announced the charges as part of a nationwide Department of Justice Health Care Fraud Takedown.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, M.D., earlier today announced the largest ever health care fraud enforcement action by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, involving 412 charged defendants across 41 federal districts, including 115 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, for their alleged participation in health care fraud schemes involving about $1.3 billion in false billings. Of those charged, more than 120 defendants, including doctors, were charged for their roles in prescribing and distributing opioids and other dangerous narcotics. Thirty state Medicaid Fraud Control Units also participated in today’s nationwide arrests. In addition, HHS has initiated suspension actions against 295 providers, including doctors, nurses and pharmacists.

In the Northern District of Alabama, the U.S. Attorney’s Office filed separate informations charging KELLEY NORRIS, also known as KELLEY NORRIS-HARTLEY, 41, of Tuscaloosa, and BRIDGET McCUNE, 41, of Destin, Fla., with conspiracy to commit health care fraud, wire fraud and mail fraud. McCune’s information also charges her with conspiring to solicit and receive kickbacks in return for referring prescriptions under Medicare and TRICARE, a U.S. Department of Defense health care program, and with money laundering for spending proceeds of the crimes. Both women face various counts of health care fraud for submitting fraudulent prescription reimbursement claims to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama.

In conjunction with the charges, prosecutors also filed plea agreements with Norris and McCune.

“In this case, a pharmacy used a marketing scheme that increased sales of expensive medications without regard for patient need or medical necessity,” Posey said. “Schemes like this defraud Medicare and other health insurance systems by pushing unnecessary medications and driving up the costs of health care.”

Norris and McCune both worked for Northside Pharmacy, an Alabama company doing business as Global Compounding Pharmacy. Global’s compounding and shipping facility was in Haleyville. The pharmacy did its prescription processing, billing and customer service at its “call center” in Clearwater, Fla.

Global hired sales representatives, including Norris and McCune, who were located in various states and were responsible for generating prescriptions from physicians and other prescribers. To bill insurance providers, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, Medicare and TRICARE, for these prescriptions, Global contracted to enter the pharmacy networks of their third-party administrators, known as “pharmacy benefit managers” or “PBMs. These PBMs included Prime Therapeutics, Express Scripts Incorporated and CVS/Caremark.

The court documents describe a conspiracy at Global that centered on generating and billing PBMs for fraudulent, often high-reimbursement prescriptions. To generate prescriptions, Global hired sales representatives who were married or related to doctors and other prescribers. Global also encouraged sales representatives to volunteer at doctors’ offices where they would review patient files and push Global’s products to patients. Global executives also frequently instructed employees to obtain high-reimbursing prescriptions that Global would fill and bill for reimbursement. Each of the plea agreements describes a Global executive instructing sales representatives to obtain certain prescriptions and, shortly after, Norris and McCune obtained those prescriptions for themselves and their dependents.

When billing, Global engaged in various fraudulent practices, including splitting drug quantities to evade PBM billing safeguards and automatically refilling and billing for prescriptions regardless of patient need. Global routinely waived co-pays to encourage patients to accept unnecessary medications and refills.

As part of their plea agreements, Norris and McCune agree to forfeit money to the government as proceeds of illegal activity. Norris agrees to forfeit $287,698 and McCune $401,628.

Global paid the defendants a base salary plus a monthly commission for prescriptions that they obtained, according to court documents.

Norris worked out of Tuscaloosa as a sales representative for Global’s Alabama region from August 2014 to July 2016. She was closely related to an Alabama physician. That relative and a second physician, described in her plea agreement as a family friend, wrote a significant number of the prescriptions Norris obtained for Global to fill.

McCune began as a sales representative for Global’s Florida region in September 2014, working from Destin. Global promoted her to national field trainer in January 2015, but she also continued to function as a sales representative until she left the company in July 2016. McCune had a “close familial relationship” with a Florida physician, according to her plea agreement. “The overwhelming majority of prescriptions she obtained” were issued under her family member’s signature, her plea agreement states.

The charges against Norris and McCune follow charges brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in May against Global sales representative Robin Gary Lowry, 49, of Columbus, Miss. Lowry was charged with conspiracy to defraud BCBS of Alabama and Prime Therapeutics. She also faced three counts of health care fraud for submitting fraudulent claims for payment to BCBS of Alabama.

Lowry pleaded guilty to the charges in June. She is scheduled for sentencing Nov. 7.

FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, U.S. Defense Criminal Investigative Service and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation investigated the cases, which Assistant U.S. Attorneys Chinelo Dike-Minor and Nicole Grosnoff are prosecuting.

National Health Care Fraud Takedown Results in Charges Against Over 412 Individuals Responsible for $1.3 Billion in Fraud Losses

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Largest Health Care Fraud Enforcement Action in Department of Justice History

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price, M.D., announced today the largest ever health care fraud enforcement action by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, involving 412 charged defendants across 41 federal districts, including 115 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, for their alleged participation in health care fraud schemes involving approximately $1.3 billion in false billings. Of those charged, over 120 defendants, including doctors, were charged for their roles in prescribing and distributing opioids and other dangerous narcotics. Thirty state Medicaid Fraud Control Units also participated in today’s arrests. In addition, HHS has initiated suspension actions against 295 providers, including doctors, nurses and pharmacists.

Attorney General Sessions and Secretary Price were joined in the announcement by Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting Director Andrew McCabe of the FBI, Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Inspector General Daniel Levinson of the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG), Chief Don Fort of IRS Criminal Investigation, Administrator Seema Verma of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and Deputy Director Kelly P. Mayo of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS).

Today’s enforcement actions were led and coordinated by the Criminal Division, Fraud Section’s Health Care Fraud Unit in conjunction with its Medicare Fraud Strike Force (MFSF) partners, a partnership between the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney’s Offices, the FBI and HHS-OIG.  In addition, the operation includes the participation of the DEA, DCIS, and State Medicaid Fraud Control Units.

The charges announced today aggressively target schemes billing Medicare, Medicaid, and TRICARE (a health insurance program for members and veterans of the armed forces and their families) for medically unnecessary prescription drugs and compounded medications that often were never even purchased and/or distributed to beneficiaries. The charges also involve individuals contributing to the opioid epidemic, with a particular focus on medical professionals involved in the unlawful distribution of opioids and other prescription narcotics, a particular focus for the Department. According to the CDC, approximately 91 Americans die every day of an opioid related overdose.

“Too many trusted medical professionals like doctors, nurses, and pharmacists have chosen to violate their oaths and put greed ahead of their patients,” said Attorney General Sessions. “Amazingly, some have made their practices into multimillion dollar criminal enterprises. They seem oblivious to the disastrous consequences of their greed. Their actions not only enrich themselves often at the expense of taxpayers but also feed addictions and cause addictions to start. The consequences are real: emergency rooms, jail cells, futures lost, and graveyards.  While today is a historic day, the Department’s work is not finished. In fact, it is just beginning. We will continue to find, arrest, prosecute, convict, and incarcerate fraudsters and drug dealers wherever they are.”

“Healthcare fraud is not only a criminal act that costs billions of taxpayer dollars – it is an affront to all Americans who rely on our national healthcare programs for access to critical healthcare services and a violation of trust,” said Secretary Price. “The United States is home to the world’s best medical professionals, but their ability to provide affordable, high-quality care to their patients is jeopardized every time a criminal commits healthcare fraud. That is why this Administration is committed to bringing these criminals to justice, as President Trump demonstrated in his 2017 budget request calling for a new $70 million investment in the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control Program. The historic results of this year’s national takedown represent significant progress toward protecting the integrity and sustainability of Medicare and Medicaid, which we will continue to build upon in the years to come.”

According to court documents, the defendants allegedly participated in schemes to submit claims to Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE for treatments that were medically unnecessary and often never provided. In many cases, patient recruiters, beneficiaries and other co-conspirators were allegedly paid cash kickbacks in return for supplying beneficiary information to providers, so that the providers could then submit fraudulent bills to Medicare for services that were medically unnecessary or never performed. The number of medical professionals charged is particularly significant, because virtually every health care fraud scheme requires a corrupt medical professional to be involved in order for Medicare or Medicaid to pay the fraudulent claims.  Aggressively pursuing corrupt medical professionals not only has a deterrent effect on other medical professionals, but also ensures that their licenses can no longer be used to bilk the system.

“This week, thanks to the work of dedicated investigators and analysts, we arrested once-trusted doctors, pharmacists and other medical professionals who were corrupted by greed,” said Acting Director McCabe. “The FBI is committed to working with our partners on the front lines of the fight against heath care fraud to stop those who steal from the government and deceive the American public.”

“Health care fraud is a reprehensible crime.  It not only represents a theft from taxpayers who fund these vital programs, but impacts the millions of Americans who rely on Medicare and Medicaid,” said Inspector General Levinson. “In the worst fraud cases, greed overpowers care, putting patients’ health at risk. OIG will continue to play a vital leadership role in the Medicare Fraud Strike Force to track down those who abuse important federal health care programs.”

“Our enforcement actions underscore the commitment of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and our partners to vigorously investigate fraud perpetrated against the DoD’s TRICARE Program. We will continue to relentlessly investigate health care fraud, ensure the taxpayers’ health care dollars are properly spent, and endeavor to guarantee our service members, military retirees, and their dependents receive the high standard of care they deserve,” advised Deputy Director Mayo.

“Last year, an estimated 59,000 Americans died from a drug overdose, many linked to the misuse of prescription drugs. This is, quite simply, an epidemic,” said Acting Administrator Rosenberg. “There is a great responsibility that goes along with handling controlled prescription drugs, and DEA and its partners remain absolutely committed to fighting the opioid epidemic using all the tools at our disposal.”

“Every defendant in today’s announcement shares one common trait – greed,” said Chief Fort. “The desire for money and material items drove these individuals to perpetrate crimes against our healthcare system and prey upon many of the vulnerable in our society.  Thanks to the financial expertise and diligence of IRS-CI special agents, who worked side-by-side with other federal, state and local law enforcement officers to uncover these schemes, these criminals are off the street and will now face the consequences of their actions.”

The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations are 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 3500 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for over $12.5 billion.

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For the Strike Force locations, in the Southern District of Florida, a total of 77 defendants were charged with offenses relating to their participation in various fraud schemes involving over $141 million in false billings for services including home health care, mental health services and pharmacy fraud.  In one case, the owner and operator of a purported addiction treatment center and home for recovering addicts and one other individual were charged in a scheme involving the submission of over $58 million in fraudulent medical insurance claims for purported drug treatment services. The allegations include actively recruiting addicted patients to move to South Florida so that the co-conspirators could bill insurance companies for fraudulent treatment and testing, in return for which, the co-conspirators offered kickbacks to patients in the form of gift cards, free airline travel, trips to casinos and strip clubs, and drugs.

In the Eastern District of Michigan, 32 defendants face charges for their alleged roles in fraud, kickback, money laundering and drug diversion schemes involving approximately $218 million in false claims for services that were medically unnecessary or never rendered. In one case, nine defendants, including six physicians, were charged with prescribing medically unnecessary controlled substances, some of which were sold on the street, and billing Medicare for $164 million in facet joint injections, drug testing, and other procedures that were medically unnecessary and/or not provided.

In the Southern District of Texas, 26 individuals were charged in cases involving over $66 million in alleged fraud. Among these defendants are a physician and a clinic owner who were indicted on one count of conspiracy to distribute and dispense controlled substances and three substantive counts of distribution of controlled substances in connection with a purported pain management clinic that is alleged to have been the highest prescribing hydrocodone clinic in Houston, where approximately 60-70 people were seen daily, and were issued medically unnecessary prescriptions for hydrocodone in exchange for approximately $300 cash per visit.

In the Central District of California, 17 defendants were charged for their roles in schemes to defraud Medicare out of approximately $147 million. Two of these defendants were indicted for their alleged involvement in a $41.5 million scheme to defraud Medicare and a private insurer. This was purportedly done by submitting fraudulent claims, and receiving payments for, prescription drugs that were not filled by the pharmacy nor given to patients.

In the Northern District of Illinois, 15 individuals were charged in cases related to six different schemes concerning home health care services and physical therapy fraud, kickbacks, and mail and wire fraud.  These schemes involved allegedly over $12.7 million in fraudulent billing. One case allegedly involved $7 million in fraudulent billing to Medicare for home health services that were not necessary nor rendered.

In the Middle District of Florida, 10 individuals were charged with participating in a variety of schemes involving almost $14 million in fraudulent billing.  In one case, three defendants were charged in a $4 million scheme to defraud the TRICARE program.  In that case, it is alleged that a defendant falsely represented himself to be a retired Lieutenant Commander of the United States Navy Submarine Service. It is alleged that he did so in order to gain the trust and personal identifying information from TRICARE beneficiaries, many of whom were members and veterans of the armed forces, for use in the scheme.

In the Eastern District of New York, ten individuals were charged with participating in a variety of schemes including kickbacks, services not rendered, and money laundering involving over $151 million in fraudulent billings to Medicare and Medicaid. Approximately $100 million of those fraudulent billings were allegedly part of a scheme in which five health care professionals paid illegal kickbacks in exchange for patient referrals to their own clinics.

In the Southern Louisiana Strike Force, operating in the Middle and Eastern Districts of Louisiana as well as the Southern District of Mississippi, seven defendants were charged in connection with health care fraud, wire fraud, and kickback schemes involving more than $207 million in fraudulent billing. One case involved a pharmacist who was charged with submitting and causing the submission of $192 million in false and fraudulent claims to TRICARE and other health care benefit programs for dispensing compounded medications that were not medically necessary and often based on prescriptions induced by illegal kickback payments.

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In addition to the Strike Force locations, today’s enforcement actions include cases and investigations brought by an additional 31 U.S. Attorney’s Offices, including the execution of search warrants in investigations conducted by the Eastern District of California and the Northern District of Ohio.

In the Northern and Southern Districts of Alabama, three defendants were charged for their roles in two health care fraud schemes involving pharmacy fraud and drug diversion.

In the Eastern District of Arkansas, 24 defendants were charged for their roles in three drug diversion schemes that were all investigated by the DEA.

In the Northern and Southern Districts of California, four defendants, including a physician, were charged for their roles in a drug diversion scheme and a health care fraud scheme involving kickbacks.

In the District of Connecticut, three defendants were charged in two health care fraud schemes, including a scheme involving two physicians who fraudulently billed Medicaid for services that were not rendered and for the provision of oxycodone with knowledge that the prescriptions were not medically necessary.

In the Northern and Southern Districts of Georgia, three defendants were charged in two health care fraud schemes involving nearly $1.5 million in fraudulent billing.

In the Southern District of Illinois, five defendants were charged in five separate schemes to defraud the Medicaid program.

In the Northern and Southern Districts of Indiana, at least five defendants were charged in various health care fraud schemes related to the unlawful distribution and dispensing of controlled substances, kickbacks, and services not rendered.

In the Southern District of Iowa, five defendants were charged in two schemes involving the distribution of opioids.

In the Western District of Kentucky, 11 defendants were charged with defrauding the Medicaid program.  In one case, four defendants, including three medical professionals, were charged with distributing controlled substances and fraudulently billing the Medicaid program.

In the District of Maine, an office manager was charged with embezzling funds from a medical office.

In the Eastern and Western Districts of Missouri, 16 defendants were charged in schemes involving over $16 million in claims, including 10 defendants charged as part of a scheme involving fraudulent lab testing.

In the District of Nebraska, a dentist was charged with defrauding the Medicaid program.

In the District of Nevada, two defendants, including a physician, were charged in a scheme involving false hospice claims.

In the Northern, Southern, and Western Districts of New York, five defendants, including two physicians and two pharmacists, were charged in schemes involving drug diversion and pharmacy fraud.

In the Southern District of Ohio, five defendants, including four physicians, were charged in connection with schemes involving $12 million in claims to the Medicaid program.

In the District of Puerto Rico, 13 defendants, including three physicians and two pharmacists, were charged in four schemes involving drug diversion, Medicaid fraud, and the theft of funds from a health care program.

In the Eastern District of Tennessee, three defendants were charged in a scheme involving fraudulent billings and the distribution of opioids.

In the Eastern, Northern, and Western Districts of Texas, nine defendants were charged in schemes involving over $42 million in fraudulent billing, including a scheme involving false claims for compounded medications.

In the District of Utah, a nurse practitioner was charged in connection with fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance, tampering with a consumer product, and infecting over seven individuals with Hepatitis C.

In the Eastern District of Virginia, a defendant was charged in connection with a scheme involving identify theft and fraudulent billings to the Medicaid program.

In addition, in the states of Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Washington, 96 defendants have been charged in criminal and civil actions with defrauding the Medicaid program out of over $31 million. These cases were investigated by each state’s respective Medicaid Fraud Control Units. In addition, the Medicaid Fraud Control Units of the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Utah participated in the investigation of many of the federal cases discussed above.

The cases announced today are being prosecuted and investigated by U.S. Attorney’s Offices nationwide, along with Medicare Fraud Strike Force teams from the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and from the U.S. Attorney’s Offices of the Southern District of Florida, Eastern District of Michigan, Eastern District of New York, Southern District of Texas, Central District of California, Eastern District of Louisiana, Northern District of Texas, Northern District of Illinois and the Middle District of Florida; and agents from the FBI, HHS-OIG, Drug Enforcement Administration, DCIS and state Medicaid Fraud Control Units.

A complaint, information, or indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Additional documents related to this announcement will shortly be available here: https://www.justice.gov/opa/documents-and-resources-july-13-2017.

This operation also highlights the great work being done by the Department of Justice’s Civil Division.  In the past fiscal year, the Department of Justice, including the Civil Division, has collectively won or negotiated over $2.5 billion in judgements and settlements related to matters alleging health care fraud.