Mississippi pharmacist pleads guilty in $180M Tricare fraud scheme

A Mississippi pharmacist pleaded guilty Aug. 25 for his role in a $180 million scheme to defraud Tricare and private insurers by paying kickbacks to distributors for the referral of medically unnecessary prescriptions. 

Mitchell Barrett, 54, formerly of Mississippi and now of Gulf Breeze, Fla., pleaded guilty to the scheme that prosecutors said resulted in more than $180 million in fraudulent billings and $50 million paid by federal healthcare programs. 

Dr. Barrett is a licensed pharmacist in Mississippi and was a co-owner of various compounding pharmacies. He adjusted prescription formulas to ensure his pharmacies received the highest reimbursements possible without regard to the medications' effectiveness in patients. 

He also solicited recruiters to procure prescriptions for high margin compounded drugs and paid the recruiters commissions based on the percentage of reimbursements paid by pharmacy benefit managers and healthcare benefit programs, including Tricare, the U.S. Justice Department in a news release. 

The Justice Department said Dr. Barrett routinely and systematically waived or reduced copayments to be paid by beneficiaries and usedpurported copayment assistance programs to make it appear that his pharmacies were collecting copayments. 

Also involved in the scheme was Thomas Wilburn Shoemaker, 57, of Rayville, La., who acted as a marketer for Mr. Barrett's pharmacies. He allowed the pharmacies to use his Tricare insurance to adjust prescription formulas to ensure the highest possible reimbursement, and recruited physicians to procure prescriptions for high-margin compounded drugs. He obtained numerous fraudulent prescriptions using the personal information of his military acquaintances, the Justice Department said. Mr. Shoemaker pleaded guilty Aug. 12. 

Dr. Barrett pleaded guilty to conspiracy to engage in monetary transactions in criminally derived property and faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Mr. Shoemaker pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and solicit, receive, offer and pay illegal kickbacks, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison. 

Read the Justice Department's full news release here

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