Husband and wife sentenced to prison for health care fraud
COLUMBUS, Ohio – A Hilliard couple were sentenced in U.S. District Court for conspiring to commit and committing health care fraud. The husband and wife owned and managed a pharmacy and Suboxone clinic in Dublin.
Darrell L. Bryant, 44, was sentenced to 84 months in prison and Gifty Kusi, 35, was sentenced to 24 months incarceration, including six months at a post-release facility and six months home confinement.
A jury convicted Bryant and Kusi following a two-week trial in December 2018.
Bryant and Kusi owned and managed Health and Wellness Pharmacy on Blazer Parkway in Dublin. Bryant, Kusi, and Dr. Jornell Rivera also owned and operated Health and Wellness Medical Center, a suboxone clinic, also located in Dublin. Rivera served as the Medical Director for the medical center.
According to court documents and testimony, Bryant, Kusi and their co-conspirators marketed prescription creams in low-income neighborhoods and mailed those creams to Medicaid customers. They also billed for counseling services that weren’t provided, and billed for individual counseling sessions that actually occurred in a group setting.
As part of the conspiracy, Medicaid was billed for compound creams to treat pain, scarring and acne. Health and Wellness Pharmacy billed Medicaid $2 million for the creams.
The pharmacy marketed the compound creams at Clinic 5 (a Suboxone clinic), Sav-a-Lot and through a mobile van unit. Patients with CareSource were targeted and told they were receiving free samples of pain cream. Then they began to receive more cream in the mail without requesting more. These were also billed to CareSource.
Customers at Sav-a-Lot and in low-income neighborhoods were asked to fill out a survey asking about any conditions that they suffered from. Then, they would receive the compound creams in the mail every month, even when customers directed the co-conspirators to stop sending them. Many of these customers never met with a doctor, nor did they know the prescribing physician.
“Exploiting the poor to cash in on the Medicaid program isn’t just immoral, it’s illegal,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said. “I’m proud of my team and grateful to all our partners for bringing this pair to justice.”
Also as part of the health care fraud scheme, Health and Wellness Medical Center submitted fraudulent claims to Medicaid for psychotherapy services that were never rendered to patients.
Specifically, patients indicated they would sit in a room with a timer. When the timer went off, they were allowed to leave and receive their Suboxone prescription. No counseling services were provided during this time. Some patients reported coloring in coloring books during the time they were in the room.
Co-conspirators Rivera and Dr. Michael Alexander have pleaded guilty to making false statements related to health care matters. Alexander also pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute controlled substances.
A jury convicted another co-conspirator, Dr. Bernard Oppong, 61, of Blacklick, Ohio, in May 2019. Oppong was convicted on five counts related to the health care fraud scheme.
“These defendants failed to provide quality care to their patients and used them to submit fraudulent claims to Medicaid in order steal taxpayer money” said Lamont Pugh III, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Inspector General - Chicago Region. “The OIG will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure that those who deceive patients and attack federally funded health care programs are held accountable.”
“Collaboration is essential for rooting out fraud and preserving the integrity of our health care system,” said State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy Executive Director Steven Schierholt. “I am grateful to our staff and our state and federal partners for bringing these individuals to justice.”
David M. DeVillers, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio; Lamont Pugh III, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General; Joseph M. Deters, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Cincinnati Division; Keith Martin, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost; and Steven W. Schierholt, Executive Director, State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy announced the sentences handed down yesterday evening by Chief U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley. Assistant United States Attorneys Kenneth F. Affeldt and Maritsa A. Flaherty are representing the United States in this case.
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