Nurse practitioner indicted in compound pharmacy scheme

 

A nurse practitioner was indicted Oct. 18 for her alleged role in a compound pharmacy scheme with roots in Hattiesburg.

Susan Perry of Grand Bay, Alabama, who operated Immediate Family Clinic in Biloxi, was arraigned Wednesday in Gulfport before U.S. District Court Mississippi Southern District Magistrate John Gargiulo. She was released on a $25,000 unsecured bond.

Also indicted Oct. 18 was Dr. Albert Diaz of Gulfport, who is expected to make his initial court appearance Wednesday.

In January 2016, federal and state law enforcement agencies conducted searches at several pharmacies around the state and confiscated millions in assets through a civil forfeiture complaint. Federal investigators believe it was a complicated web of fraud and money laundering to the tune of more than $400 million profit from TRICARE, Medicare and other public and private insurance companies.

Diaz, Perry and others allegedly submitted fraudulent claims to maximize funds received by conspiring with a Lamar County compound pharmacy company to “mass produce high-yield compounded medications and further created preprinted prescription forms” to make it easier for doctors and nurse practitioners to prescribe the medications.

In exchange for expected kickbacks, Perry and Diaz are accused of signing the prescription forms and authorizing automatic refills for the medications, which were not scientifically evaluated for effectiveness or individualized patient needs, at the urging of a drug marketing company also located in Lamar County.

The prescriptions were filled by the Lamar County pharmacy, which received more than $2.3 million in reimbursements from TRICARE through the prescriptions Diaz and Perry signed, according to court documents.

Perry additionally is accused of soliciting two unnamed employees to help her identify potential beneficiaries for the compounded medications, failing to examine the patients on occasion.

Perry allegedly received more than $50,000 in kickbacks.

After the alleged scheme was uncovered, Diaz and two unnamed marketers allegedly met with some of the beneficiaries who had already been prescribed the compounded drugs to create, backdate or leave undated records to make it appear Diaz had examined them before he prescribed the medications, submitting the falsified records to TRICARE.

Diaz faces 16 charges: one count attempt and conspiracy; four counts fraud by wire, radio or television; one count conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance; four counts distributing, selling or dispensing a controlled substance; one count conspiracy; and five counts destruction, alteration or falsification of records in federal investigations.

Perry was indicted on 13 charges: one count attempt and conspiracy; four counts fraud by wire, radio or television; one count conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance; one count distributing, selling or dispensing a controlled substance; one count conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government; four counts payment to a non-licensed physician; and one count statements or entries generally (making false claims or statements).

In July, two men pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme.

Jason May, 40, a pharmacist from Lamar County and co-owner of Advantage Pharmacy — one of several named in a civil forfeiture, was charged July 12 with one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government.

Gerald “Jay” Schaar, 47, of Biloxi also was charged July 12. He was charged with one count of attempt and conspiracy.

May and Schaar admitted their roles in the scheme, with May admitting to handling around $192 million of the fraudulently obtained money received from TRICARE and other health care benefit providers through his pharmacy by issuing “high-heeled compounded medications” that were expensive and deemed not medically necessary.

May also admitted to laundering around $400,000 by transferring funds between various banks.

Schaar admitted to receiving kickbacks for helping “Pharmacy 1” fraudulently obtain around $2.2 million in reimbursements from TRICARE, the Department of Defense’s military health care system.

Both men will be sentenced at a later date.

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