The owner of a Florida pharmacy, a physician, and a patient recruiter have been convicted of criminal charges for their involvement in an illegal kickback scheme that cheated a taxpayer-funded health care program for active military members out of $4.3 million.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Larry Howard, 53, the owner of Fertility Pharmacy in Oviedo, Florida, paid illegal health care kickbacks to patient recruiter Raymond Stone, 57, of Orlando. Mr. Stone in return referred patients to doctors selected by Mr. Howard. Those doctors then prescribed expensive pain and scar creams to Tricare patients. The prescriptions were filled by Mr. Howard, who billed them to TRICARE, the federal health care program that provides coverage to active-duty military members and their families.
Evidence presented at trial also showed that Mr. Howard paid illegal health care kickbacks to Dr. Nicole Bramwell, 52, of Apopka, Florida. In return, Dr. Bramwell wrote prescriptions for the expensive creams, which could cost as much as $17,000 per bottle, the DOJ said.
Between October 2014 and May 2015, TRICARE paid Fertility Pharmacy more than $4.3 million for products that were essentially little more than a money-making scheme driven by illegal kickbacks.
After a five-day trial, Mr. Howard, Mr. Stone, and Dr. Bramwell were convicted of one count of conspiracy to pay health care kickbacks and paying and receiving kickbacks. Mr. Howard also was convicted of two counts of paying health care kickbacks and two counts of money laundering. Mr. Stone and Dr. Bramwell were convicted of one count each of receiving health care kickbacks.
The kickback scheme was uncovered by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, part of the DOJ’s Fraud Section. Since it was launched in 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force has grown to operate in nine cities throughout the U.S. It has also charged about 3,500 defendants who, collectively, billed federal health care programs for more than $12.5 billion.