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More prosecutions, arrests coming in Florida pharmacy fraud scam

Federal prosecutors say a massive pharmacy fraud settlement in Florida is just the beginning.

“Early next year, we’ll start bringing criminal charges against individual doctors,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Mehta says.

Mehta says his office thinks the scam began in 2013 when the military health care program Tricare started seeing a big spike in compounded pain prescriptions. Tricare typically spends $100 million a year on reimbursements for such meds.

However, in 2014 $1.4 billion was spent. More than 95 percent of that was fraud, Mehta says.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office settled for about $30 million with several Jacksonville compounding pharmacies in the matter.

The local pharmacies, while admitting no wrongdoing, paid out to settle allegations they engaged in kickbacks and fraud, all while selling unnecessary drugs to active military personnel. The drugs were marketed to servicemen and women over the phone, and usually touted as a way to cure headaches or migraines.

Tricare serves 9 1/2 million military members and their dependents, and is known for more generous reimbursements than other programs, making it an attractive fraud target.

“The scam didn’t originate in Florida, but it proliferated here,” Mehta said.

 

Written By

In addition to her work writing for Florida Politics, Melissa Ross also hosts and produces WJCT’s First Coast Connect, the Jacksonville NPR/PBS station’s flagship local call-in public affairs radio program. The show has won four national awards from Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). First Coast Connect was also recognized in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 as Best Local Radio Show by Folio Weekly’s “Best Of Jax” Readers Poll and Melissa has also been recognized as Folio Weekly’s Best Local Radio Personality. As executive producer of The 904: Shadow on the Sunshine State, Melissa and WJCT received an Emmy in the “Documentary” category at the 2011 Suncoast Emmy Awards. The 904 examined Jacksonville’s status as Florida’s murder capital. During her years in broadcast television, Melissa picked up three additional Emmys for news and feature reporting. Melissa came to WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. Married with two children, Melissa is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism/Communications. She can be reached at m.ross66211@gmail.com.

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