Mississippi pharmacist pleads guilty in health fraud scheme
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi pharmacist has pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to solicit and pay kickbacks and bribes in what prosecutors say was a wide-ranging fraud involving expensive compounded medication.
David “Jason” Rutland, 42, of Bolton, entered the guilty plea Tuesday. A Justice Department news release said Rutland has been co-owner of compounding pharmacies.
Rutland was indicted on multiple counts in 2020, along with alleged co-conspirators Mitchell “Chad” Barrett, 55, of Gulf Breeze, Florida, and Thomas “Tommy” Shoemaker, 57, of Rayville, Louisiana, the Hattiesburg American reported.
Federal court records show Barrett has pleaded not guilty, and his trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 20. Shoemaker originally pleaded not guilty, but documents filed July 13 show he intends to change his plea to guilty.
The government contends in court documents the three men were involved in a scheme “to solicit and pay kickbacks and bribes to marketers, physicians, other medical providers and beneficiaries to refer, prescribe, and receive prescriptions for medically unnecessary compound medications.”
The men also were charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud totaling more than $182.5 million between September 2011 and January 2016, of which Rutland admitted he received about $13.3 million.
More than $50 million of the fraud involved TRICARE and other government-funded health care benefits providers.
The conspiracy is part of Mississippi’s largest health care fraud case to date.
More than $515 million in fraudulent prescription billings were made to TRICARE, Medicare, Medicaid and private health care benefit providers in Mississippi, authorities said.
Nationwide, more than $1.5 billion was reported in the fraud, which entailed marketing compounded medications to health care providers, especially those treating patients with military health care coverage.
Rather than formulating the compounded medications based on a person’s needs, the medications were prescribed to maximize profit. In Rutland’s case, some of the medications were formulated for ear drops.
The Hattiesburg American reported that Rutland’s voice was barely audible as he answered questions from U.S. Senior Judge Keith Starrett before admitting guilt. Rutland will remain free on bond until his Nov. 30 sentencing hearing. He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.