Hattiesburg man charged in healthcare fraud scheme
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - A Hattiesburg man was among nearly a dozen people charged Wednesday in a multi-million dollar healthcare fraud operation across the Gulf Coast.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division announced the charges Wednesday. The charges span four federal districts and involve various schemes to defraud Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE, which is a health insurance program for members and veterans of the armed forces and their families.
The schemes resulted in more than $515 million in fraudulent billing, according to the Department of Justice.
“Fraud against our nation’s vital federal health care programs amounts to theft from American taxpayers,” said Benczkowski. "The Department of Justice, together with our law enforcement partners, will continue to investigate and prosecute aggressively those who bill these programs for medically unnecessary services, whether in the Gulf Coast or elsewhere in the United States.”
In Hattiesburg, 52-year-old Wade Ashley Walters, a co-owner of compounding pharmacies and pharmaceutical marketing companies, was charged in the Southern District of Mississippi for his alleged role in a scheme to defraud TRICARE and other private health insurance companies.
The indictment includes 37 counts against Walters, including conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud, soliciting and receiving monetary kickbacks, as well as possessing and selling controlled substances.
The indictment claims the scheme involved paying practitioners and marketers for prescribing and referring fraudulent prescriptions for unnecessary compound medications to be dispensed by Walter’s pharmacy, which was then reimbursed by TRICARE and other healthcare benefit programs for the prescriptions. Walters is also accused of attempting to launder the proceeds from the scheme.
Walters pleaded not guilty and had his bond set at $250,000. He is due back in court on Nov. 5 for a pre-trial hearing. Walters could face more than 500 years in federal prison if convicted on all charges.
Two Meridian residents, 49-year-old Dr. Gregory Auzenne and 45-year-old Tiffany Clark, were also charged in Mississippi’s Southern District. They are accused of participating in the scheme and taking bribes to prescribe unnecessary medication. The indictment accuses Auzenne and Clark of submitted $1.6 million in fraudulent claims to TRICARE.
According to the DOJ, Wednesday actions were led and coordinated by the Health Care Fraud Unit of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section in conjunction with its Medicare Fraud Strike Task Force partners.
Defendants charged in the Middle District of Louisiana include:
- Dr. Foster Chapman, 40, of Alexandria, was charged for his alleged role in a scheme to prescribe unnecessary medical equipment to Medicare beneficiaries he never examined. The indictment alleges Chapman concealed the fraud by falsifying orders and that he submitted over $4.8 million in fraudulent charges to Medicare.
- Victor Clark Kirk, 70, and Marilyn Brown Antwine, 51, both of Baton Rouge, were charged in a scheme to defraud Medicaid. The indictment alleges that Kirk and Antwine, who were CEO and COO, respectively, of a health center, directed employees to falsely diagnose students with mental health disorders and submit claims to Medicaid claiming psychotherapy had been provided, though it had not been.
Defendants charged in the Eastern District of Louisiana include:
- Aaron Denn, 34, of Metairie, was charged for his alleged role in a scheme to obtain and divert oxycodone pills to the black market.
- Christie Lynn Browning, 40, of Metairie, was charged for her alleged role in a conspiracy to obtain oxycodone by fraud and then distribute the oxycodone.
Defendants charged in the Northern District of Florida include:
- Helen Elizabeth Storey, 37, and Stephanie Lynn Fleming, 42, both of Tallahassee, were charged for their alleged role in a scheme to defraud Medicaid by submitting false and fraudulent claims for behavioral health services.
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