Two doctors plead guilty in health care fraud scheme

Two doctors plead guilty in health care fraud scheme
Shahjahan Sultan and Thomas Edward Sturdavant pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday. (Source: Gray News)

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Two doctors pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday for their roles in a multi-million dollar health care fraud scheme.

The Department of Justice announced 37-year-old Shahjahan Sultan, of Madison, and 56-year-old Thomas Edward Sturdavant, of Kingsport, Tennessee, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud before Senior U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett in Hattiesburg.

Prosecutors accused Sultan of entering into a contract with a Jackson County pharmacy in May 2014. In the contract, Sultan agreed to prescribe expensive compound medications to people in exchange for the pharmacy paying Sultan 35% of the reimbursements it received for the prescriptions from health care benefit programs, including TRICARE.

“These doctors violated their oaths and harmed our military, our veterans, and every American taxpayer by defrauding TRICARE," said U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst. “I want to commend our law enforcement partners, DOJ trial attorneys, and our federal prosecutors for bringing these criminals to justice. We will continue to aggressively pursue criminals who pilfer our national treasury and do all that we can to protect victims of these crimes.”

According to the DOJ, Sultan employed others to find individuals in places like Jones County whose insurance would cover the expensive compound medicines. Sultan then met with the individuals over telemedicine video chats, but Sultan failed to perform thorough examinations to determine if the compound medications were necessary.

Prosecutors said Sultan was aware that some ingredients added to the compound medications were added for the sole purpose of increasing the reimbursement value. Sultan and Sturdavant are also accused of prescribing medications for individuals that were never examined.

Sultan hired Sturdavant in September 2014, agreeing to pay him $900,000 annually to perform telemedicine services and prescribe compound medications through the pharmacy. According to the DOJ, health care benefit programs paid more than $5 million in reimbursements to the pharmacy for the compound medications.

Sultan and Sturdavant are scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 26. Each faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.

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