A Nashville, Tenn., man on Monday became the fifth person to plead guilty in a Little Rock-based multimillion-dollar scheme to defraud Tricare, the U.S. military's health insurer.
Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Miller accepted a pre-indictment guilty plea from Jason Greene to a charge of conspiring to violate the anti-kickback statute.
Brad Duke, 43, of Little Rock, who prosecutors have said was the ringleader of the conspiracy, pleaded guilty Oct. 3 to the same charge. Duke was a former medical sales representative who did business as Medsurg Inc., and admitted that from December 2014 to about July 2015, he conspired to generate Tricare-covered prescriptions for compounded drugs for his and his co-conspirators' financial benefit.
Three more people pleaded guilty Oct. 18 to being a part of the conspiracy in which one of them -- Charlotte Leija, 38, of Conway -- used beneficiary information provided by Duke to issue fake prescriptions under the name of a Little Rock doctor for whom she worked as a medical assistant. Prosecutors say the doctor was unaware of the scheme.
The unauthorized prescriptions, for which Leija admitted drawing up the maximum number of fake refills, were for medications compounded by a Mississippi pharmacy that paid Duke a share of whatever the pharmacy was paid on prescriptions issued by affiliated doctors.
Duke, in turn, paid Leija, and also paid patient recruiters to find Tricare beneficiaries in whose names prescriptions could be written, prosecutors say.
Over 70 percent of the prescriptions issued under the doctor's name were for Tricare beneficiaries outside Arkansas, according to court documents that said the beneficiaries lived in 24 states.
In less than one year, prosecutors said, the scheme generated over $10 million in compound prescriptions for over 100 Tricare beneficiaries from California to Massachusetts.
They said Duke paid patient recruiters more than $2 million to find the beneficiaries and paid Leija more than $250,000 to issue the prescriptions.
Greene's plea agreement holds him responsible for more than $550,000 in government dollars that were paid out to the scheme participants. The information to which he pleaded guilty states that he was a medical sales representative in Nashville and was one of several co-conspirators who unlawfully enriched themselves by offering, soliciting and receiving kickbacks and bribes in exchange for referring Tricare beneficiaries to receive prescriptions issued under the unsuspecting doctor's name.
His charging document states that on March 19, 2015, he emailed Duke a pre-filled prescription for a beneficiary in Nevada for whom three compounds had been pre-selected, and two minutes later, Duke forwarded the email to Leija, writing, "Here's another Tricare patient."
On June 1, 2015, the document states, Greene moved $366,513 from his Medsurg account at U.S. Bank to another account he had at the same bank.
The Mississippi pharmacy in question hasn't been identified, but court documents say that among the highest-grossing compounds it manufactured were topical pain, scar and antifungal creams that came in pump bottles, and supplements in the form of pills -- the same products that Duke promoted.
Documents say preprinted prescription pads listed all of the pharmacy's compounds so that prescribers only needed to check a box beside the desired medication.
Metro on 11/28/2018
Print Headline: Man pleads guilty to defrauding U.S. of $550,000 in Little Rock-based scheme