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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Arkansas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Dallas-Area Woman Becomes Seventh Person to Plead Guilty in Multi-Million Dollar TRICARE Kickback Scheme

LITTLE ROCK—Cody Hiland, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Diane Upchurch, Special Agent in Charge of the Little Rock Field Office of the FBI, and Artie DeLaneuville, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Dallas Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG), announced the guilty plea today of Jennifer Sorenson, 41, of McKinney, Texas, to conspiring to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute.

In October of this year, Brad Duke, 44, of Little Rock, pleaded guilty to orchestrating a conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute that involved an unnamed Medical Assistant and five unnamed Patient Recruiters. All six have since pleaded guilty before Chief United States District Judge Brian S. Miller, culminating with Sorenson’s guilty plea today. The group includes Charlotte Leija, 38, of Conway (previously identified as Medical Assistant 1) and Michael “Chance” Beeman, 49, of Maumelle, Michael Sean Brady, 50, of Little Rock, Jason Greene, 31, of Nashville, Tennessee, Brian Means, 44, of Fort Smith, and Sorenson (previously identified as Patient Recruiters 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, respectively).

Duke marketed drugs for a Mississippi compounding pharmacy, earning commission whenever affiliated doctors prescribed its drugs. For a time in 2014 and 2015, TRICARE (our military’s health insurer) paid exorbitant sums—up to tens of thousands of dollars per patient, per month—for certain compounded drugs. Duke sought to capitalize on this by paying one set of kickbacks to Patient Recruiters to send him TRICARE beneficiary information and another set of kickbacks to Leija to rubber stamp prescriptions in their names. In less than one year, the scheme generated over $10 million in compound drug prescriptions for over 100 TRICARE beneficiaries hailing from as far west as Chula Vista, California, to as far east as Foxborough, Massachusetts.

At guilty pleas over the previous weeks, Leija admitted inserting the name of the Little Rock doctor for whom she worked onto prescriptions without his knowledge, while Patient Recruiters acknowledged using a variety of methods to round up TRICARE beneficiaries, such as offering them cash and gift cards to receive the drugs and paying subordinates (including current and former members of the military) to recruit still more TRICARE beneficiaries on their behalf. For her part, during today’s hearing Sorenson admitted engaging a network of subordinates that included a member of the Army National Guard, through which she recruited over 20 TRICARE beneficiaries for Duke.

All seven co-conspirators pled guilty to conspiring to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute, 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7b(b), which is punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of not more than $250,000, and up to three years of supervised release. To date, Judge Miller has ordered nearly $3 million in forfeiture, of which almost $1.4 million has already been recovered. Sentencing will take place before Judge Miller in 2019.

If you or someone you know was approached about getting compounded prescription drugs, please contact usaare.TRICAREtips@usdoj.gov.

This case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG, and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Alexander D. Morgan.

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This news release, as well as additional information about the office of the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, is available on-line at
http://www.justice.gov/edar

Twitter:
@EDARNEWS

Topic(s): 
Health Care Fraud
Updated December 19, 2018