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Rx fraud case nets 8th plea of guilty

$12M generated in drug scheme by Dale Ellis | February 25, 2021 at 4:13 a.m.

An eighth defendant has pleaded guilty in connection with a $12 million scheme to generate prescriptions for expensive compounded drugs paid for by Tricare.

According to a news release from the office of acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan Ross, Blake Yoder, 39, of Scott entered his guilty plea Wednesday afternoon before U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker.

According to Yoder's plea agreement filed Wednesday, around January 2015, Albert Glenn Hudson of Sherwood offered to pay Yoder to recruit Tricare beneficiaries to get Pharmacy 1 compounded drugs, telling Yoder that the drugs would not cost beneficiaries anything and that Hudson would secure their prescriptions. Tricare is the health care program for military members, the families and retirees.

In all, the document said that Hudson paid Yoder $62,633.16 for recruiting six Tricare beneficiaries (including himself) who received over $300,000 in Pharmacy 1 compounded drugs.

According to the release, Yoder joins seven others who have pleaded guilty: Hudson; Derek Clifton, 39, of Alexander; Donna Crowder, 66, of North Little Rock; Jennifer Crowder (formerly Bracy), 38, of Little Rock; Keith Benson, 50, of North Little Rock; Keith Hunter, 52, of Little Rock; and Angie Johnson, 49, of North Little Rock.

All eight co-conspirators pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the anti-kickback statute, which is punishable by up to five years in federal prison, three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine. Together they agreed to forfeit over $3.2 million in illicit proceeds. Sentencing will be at a later date.

In November, Clifton, a former medical sales representative, agreed to give up two bank accounts containing more than $65,000 and his 3,127-square-foot home in Alexander, which, according to the real estate app Zillow, is currently worth nearly $470,000, as part of his repayment of $743,775 that he admitted pocketing through the scheme.

Hudson, who pleaded guilty last June, admitted that he had pocketed $1.5 million as the organizer of the fraud network, and was ordered to forfeit a personal money judgment in the amount of $1,523,335.61 or property equal to that amount.

In late July, Benson pleaded guilty in the case before another judge, admitting he took $727,679.30 for recruiting patients for the scheme, and agreed to repay that amount.

Donna and Jennifer Crowder (Bracy) also pleaded guilty in July, admitting that Crowder approved fraudulent prescriptions in return for payments of more than $89,000 to her daughter.

Hunter, who pleaded guilty in September, agreed to forfeit $69,620, the amount that he admitted to taking in the scheme.

Johnson pleaded guilty in January before U.S. District Judge Brian S. Miller and admitted to taking more than $40,000.

Alexander physician Joe David May, 40, and Kenneth Myers Jr., 42, now of Alpharetta, Ga., are scheduled to go to trial on Dec. 6 before Baker. May and Myers are charged with conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud, violating the anti-kickback statute, and lying to the FBI. May faces additional charges of falsifying records and aggravated identity theft, while Myers faces additional charges of witness tampering and obstruction of justice.

An indictment handed up in January against Clifton and May, also known as Jay May, alleged that they -- and others later added to the indictment -- were part of a conspiracy to recruit patients, sometimes by paying them, to receive expensive drugs, including non-narcotic pain creams, scar creams and supplements that they didn't need.

The indictment said that, unbeknownst to Tricare, kickbacks were often paid at every level; to beneficiaries to get the drugs, to recruiters to find beneficiaries, and to medical professionals to sign off on the prescriptions.

According to the release, Hudson admitted paying Benson, Hunter, Johnson, Myers and Yoder to recruit Tricare beneficiaries to receive expensive compounded drugs and then paying Bracy and Clifton to get Crowder and May to rubber stamp medically unnecessary prescriptions. Hudson, Bracy and Crowder admitted Crowder's signature was secured by payments to her daughter (Bracy).

Additionally, Clifton admitted giving cash to May in exchange for his signature, a fact also known to Hudson. After federal agents began investigating, Hudson and Clifton acknowledged helping Crowder and May fabricate medical records to make it seem as if patients were examined before receiving prescriptions.

Clifton is scheduled for sentencing May 6 by Baker.

Information for this article was contributed by Linda Satter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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