Doctor, Pharmacists, And Marketers In Compounding Pharmacy Kickback Conspiracy Sentenced
Tampa, Florida – Two pharmacists, a physician, and two marketers have been sentenced for conspiring to pay and receive health care kickbacks for prescriptions for compounded creams billed to TRICARE.
On December 17, 2019, U.S. District Judge Mary S. Scriven sentenced Dr. Anthony Baldizzi (56, Treasure Island) to one year and a day in federal prison for his role in the conspiracy. Baldizzi was ordered to forfeit $100,000, including a BMW that he had received as a kickback. On March 7, 2018, Baldizzi had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and receive kickbacks, and one count of receiving healthcare kickbacks. He will be surrendering his license to practice medicine in January 2020.
On October 18, 2019, U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich sentenced pharmacist Carlos Mazariegos (42, Palm Harbor) to one year and a day in federal prison for his role in the conspiracy. On April 10, 2017, Mazariegos had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud. He is no longer a licensed pharmacist.
On November 6, 2019, U.S. District Judge Susan C. Bucklew sentenced pharmacist Benjamin Nundy (42, Ruskin) to a five-year term of probation for his role in the conspiracy. On July 13, 2017, Nundy had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud. He is no longer a licensed pharmacist.
Mazariegos and Nundy paid $6,404,793.24 in restitution to the United States and forfeited $6,404,793.24 in cash.
On December 18, 2019, U.S. District Judge Mary S. Scriven sentenced the owners of the marketing firm Centurion Compounding, Inc., Frank V. Monte and Kimberley S. Anderson, to 24 months and 18 months in federal prison, respectively. Monte and Anderson also forfeited more than $3 million in property and luxury vehicles, including a Lamborghini, a Porsche, a Ferrari, a Ford GT racing car, a McLaren, and a Mercedes.
According to court documents, in 2014 and 2015, Centurion, a marketing firm located in Pasco County, was operated by Monte and Anderson. Centurion employed sales representatives to market compounded prescription medications—specifically, creams for pain and scars—to beneficiaries of healthcare plans, especially TRICARE. These creams typically ranged in price from $900 to $21,000 for a one-month supply. Centurion representatives marketed the creams to individuals living and working at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.
In May 2014, Centurion entered into an exclusive, illegal kickback arrangement with Pinellas County-based LifeCare pharmacy, whereby Centurion and LifeCare agreed to share equally in the profits from the claims paid by health benefit programs, including TRICARE, for compounded medications prescribed to beneficiaries. Baldizzi agreed with Monte, Anderson, and the owners of LifeCare pharmacy (Mazariegos and Nundy), that, in exchange for kickbacks, he would write prescriptions for compounded creams marketed by Centurion to TRICARE beneficiaries. Between May and November 2014, LifeCare billed health insurers, including TRICARE, more than $12.4 million for compounded cream prescriptions written by Baldizzi and marketed by Centurion. LifeCare realized a profit of more than $10 million, which it shared with Baldizzi, Monte, and Anderson.
Even after LifeCare closed and Baldizzi withdrew from the conspiracy, Centurion transferred the existing refills from Baldizzi’s prescriptions to a new pharmacy, which filled the prescriptions and billed TRICARE. In all, Centurion caused TRICARE to be billed more than $50 million for compounded creams prescribed to patients that it had recruited. Following the execution of a federal search warrant in February 2015, Centurion ceased operations, and the United States facilitated the repayment or reversal of more than $48 million in claims to TRICARE.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, the Defense Criminal Investigation Service, and the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations, with assistance from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and the Drug Enforcement Administration. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Mandy Riedel and Colin McDonell, with assistance from Assistant United States Attorneys Suzanne Nebesky and Holly Gershow.