Biloxi, Mississippi - 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.