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Press Release

Two Individuals Plead Guilty to Health Care Fraud Conspiracy

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Alabama

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – A former doctor and her wife pleaded guilty today to crimes involving the medical practice they ran in north Alabama for many years.  United States Attorney Prim Escalona, FBI Special Agent in Charge Carlton Peeples, Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Steven L. Hofer, and Special Agent in Charge Tamela Miles of the Department of Health and Human Service Office of the Inspector General Atlanta Region made the announcement.

Francene Aretha Gayle, 50, of Apopka, Florida, pleaded guilty before U.S. District. Judge Liles Burke to five counts of unlawful drug distribution, one count of health care fraud conspiracy, and one count of wire fraud conspiracy. Gayle’s wife, Schara Monique Davis, 48, also of Apopka, pleaded guilty to one count of health care fraud conspiracy and one count of wire fraud conspiracy.

According to the defendants’ plea agreements, between about 2014 and early 2020, Gayle was a doctor who operated a multi-clinic practice in Huntsville, Athens, and Killen. Davis owned the practice and served as business manager. In 2019, the Killen clinic shut down. In March 2020, the Alabama Medical Licensure Commission revoked Gayle’s license, and the other two clinics closed shortly after that.

Gayle admitted that she had unlawfully distributed drugs, including oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone.

Gayle and Davis both admitted to having conspired to commit health care fraud for several years by billing insurers for office visits under Gayle’s name even when she did not see the patients, was not in the same building, and sometimes was not in the same town. The defendants knew that the billing scheme was fraudulent. In 2015, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama audited the practice and discovered that Gayle was absent, other staff were seeing patients, and yet all office visits were being billed under Gayle’s name. Blue Cross flagged the issue, and Gayle promised it would stop. Instead, the practice continued fraudulently billing insurers for office visits for the next four years. In total, between 2015 and 2020, Medicare, Medicaid, and Blue Cross paid more than $2.3 million for office visits billed under Gayle’s name.

Gayle and Davis both also admitted to having conspired to commit wire fraud. In March 2020, based on concerns about her prescribing and billing practices, Gayle’s Alabama medical license was revoked.  Months later, Gayle and Davis applied for and obtained more than $450,000 in COVID-19 disaster relief funds through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. Those funds were designed to stabilize businesses struggling because of the pandemic. In their funding applications, Gayle and Davis certified that their medical practice needed the money because of economic uncertainty or injury caused by the pandemic. In reality, Gayle and Davis’s practice had closed, and they used COVID-19 funds they received on other things.

The maximum penalty for unlawful drug distribution is twenty years in prison. The maximum penalty for health care fraud conspiracy is ten years in prison. The maximum penalty for wire fraud conspiracy is twenty years in prison.

The FBI, DEA, and HHS-OIG investigated the case. The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Alabama Attorney General’s Office provided exceptional investigative assistance after the Alabama Medicaid Agency’s Program Integrity Division initiated the case and referred it. Assistant U.S. Attorneys J.B. Ward and Ryan Rummage are prosecuting the case.

Updated June 11, 2024