Jurors find physician guilty in pharmacy fraud case

Jurors have found a Mississippi Gulf Coast physician accused of writing improper prescriptions guilty on all 16 counts in a multi-million dollar fraud scheme.

Posted: Mar 5, 2018 12:05 AM

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) — Jurors have found a Mississippi Gulf Coast physician accused of writing improper prescriptions guilty on all 16 counts in a multi-million dollar fraud scheme.

After hearing four days of testimony, the jury delivered the verdict late Friday against Gulfport-based Dr. Albert Diaz who was taken into custody until he has a bond hearing before a magistrate judge.

Diaz, 78, of Ocean Springs, was charged in a federal indictment alleging he was involved in scheme to defraud TRICARE out of millions of dollars. Those charges include fraud, conspiracy, conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, distribution of a controlled substance and destruction, alteration or falsification of records in a federal investigation.

Diaz's lawyer, John Colette, walking out of the courtroom said the verdict was very upsetting.

Sentencing will be at 9:30 a.m. May 22 at William M. Colmer Federal Courthouse in Hattiesburg before U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett.

Diaz faces up to 305 years in prison and fines up to $7.5 million.

The prosecution and defense rested after Diaz admitted on the witness stand Thursday that he was prescribing medications to patients he never saw.

The Hattiesburg American reports that prosecutors told jurors that Diaz, with the help of pharmaceutical sales representative Jay Schaar and pharmacist Jason May, prescribed an estimated $2.3 million in unnecessary medication to veterans. Charges say the prescriptions defrauded the federal military health insurance program TRICARE.

The defense argues that Diaz isn't at fault because he never benefited financially from the scheme.

Diaz testified that when Schaar told him that VA patients had been denied medication by other doctors, he wanted to help the patients. With Schaar's help, he prescribed pain creams to patients he never met and later falsified records to appear that he had.

Only after Diaz learned that he was being audited did he visit the patients for whom he was prescribing. Over a year after Diaz had begun writing the prescriptions, Schaar and accomplice Randy Thomley took Diaz to patients' houses for visits.

Prosecutors also showed the jury a video of Diaz and Schaar in which the two men plot what to tell investigators of their scheme. Diaz admits to writing prescriptions before meeting patients in the video and acknowledges that his actions were illegal.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the indictments in July as part of a nationwide crackdown on health care fraud.

Providers are facing dozens of charges of conspiracy, fraud, distribution of a controlled substance and destroying or falsifying records intended for a federal investigation.

Parts of the investigation have been visible since agents raided nine Mississippi pharmacies in January 2016. Prosecutors allege that three Mississippi pharmacies alone bilked $400 million from insurers.

Nurse practitioner Susan Perry will stand trial in April for her alleged role in the scheme.

May and Schaar will be sentenced at a later date.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 115088

Reported Deaths: 3255
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7973177
DeSoto703979
Harrison522384
Jackson457884
Rankin394086
Madison383194
Lee357380
Forrest304678
Jones292484
Washington258399
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Lowndes179962
Panola170040
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Warren154855
Monroe150673
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Marshall143129
Lincoln140157
Pike138456
Copiah137536
Scott125429
Coahoma124937
Grenada122638
Yazoo122234
Simpson121549
Union118825
Tate116839
Leake115041
Holmes114760
Itawamba113925
Pearl River113660
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Prentiss106120
Wayne101722
Alcorn100112
George99218
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Tippah90322
Newton86627
Chickasaw85526
Tallahatchie84526
Winston84121
Hancock84028
Tishomingo81241
Attala79426
Clarke75851
Clay69321
Jasper68717
Walthall63927
Calhoun62612
Noxubee59817
Smith59416
Montgomery54923
Yalobusha54514
Claiborne53716
Tunica53517
Lawrence51814
Perry49423
Carroll49312
Greene47818
Stone47514
Humphreys43816
Amite42513
Quitman4206
Jefferson Davis41011
Webster37613
Benton3416
Wilkinson33820
Kemper32615
Sharkey28514
Jefferson27610
Franklin2423
Choctaw2086
Issaquena1074
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 155915

Reported Deaths: 2674
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23129377
Mobile16849315
Tuscaloosa10296140
Montgomery10197197
Madison928096
Shelby733863
Baldwin663769
Lee653465
Calhoun456761
Marshall438150
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Morgan412035
DeKalb338829
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St. Clair292542
Limestone284230
Walker277292
Talladega265335
Cullman244024
Lauderdale226242
Jackson214915
Franklin205231
Autauga204831
Colbert200532
Russell19443
Blount192525
Chilton186932
Dallas186527
Coffee176311
Dale175151
Covington174029
Escambia172530
Chambers135044
Clarke134317
Pike133513
Tallapoosa131787
Marion107629
Barbour10319
Marengo100822
Butler100740
Winston92213
Geneva9007
Lawrence85032
Pickens84718
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Hale76730
Washington74412
Clay74112
Cherokee73314
Lowndes70928
Henry7086
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Monroe64610
Crenshaw60630
Perry5896
Fayette57413
Wilcox56712
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Cleburne5568
Macon53420
Lamar4905
Sumter47221
Choctaw39012
Greene34216
Coosa2033
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