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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: 67649

Reported Deaths: 1912
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5613118
DeSoto365831
Harrison252036
Madison242266
Rankin228334
Jackson227642
Jones189958
Forrest180656
Washington166341
Lee146241
Lauderdale141292
Neshoba128692
Lamar122014
Oktibbeha112239
Bolivar111334
Warren109333
Lowndes107737
Panola105913
Sunflower103925
Scott100320
Lafayette97316
Copiah95428
Pike93636
Leflore93363
Holmes89248
Grenada84721
Yazoo83112
Pontotoc8278
Lincoln81741
Monroe79655
Simpson79630
Leake78825
Wayne76721
Coahoma76013
Tate73429
Marshall6959
Marion67720
Union63616
Adams62325
Winston62016
Covington61213
George5815
Pearl River55039
Newton54211
Tallahatchie53110
Attala52225
Walthall50220
Chickasaw46219
Noxubee45711
Alcorn4285
Calhoun4189
Tishomingo4175
Prentiss41210
Claiborne40713
Smith40513
Clay39614
Hancock39014
Jasper3869
Tippah36613
Itawamba35910
Tunica3377
Clarke32726
Montgomery3265
Lawrence3238
Yalobusha31510
Humphreys29311
Quitman2691
Carroll26111
Greene25012
Perry2367
Webster23412
Kemper23314
Amite2326
Jefferson Davis2316
Wilkinson21213
Stone1995
Sharkey1975
Jefferson1967
Benton1441
Choctaw1344
Franklin1272
Issaquena261
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 99390

Reported Deaths: 1733
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson13109243
Mobile9947207
Montgomery6835148
Madison537834
Tuscaloosa421373
Unassigned359961
Baldwin354425
Shelby328335
Marshall316736
Lee267845
Morgan239318
Etowah212131
DeKalb181913
Calhoun178414
Elmore172338
Walker152664
Houston139812
Russell13682
St. Clair133817
Limestone133313
Dallas132323
Franklin127420
Cullman122512
Colbert118113
Autauga116921
Lauderdale116719
Escambia108217
Talladega102614
Jackson9894
Tallapoosa85579
Chambers84138
Dale83424
Blount8004
Chilton7926
Butler76436
Coffee7616
Covington73520
Pike7097
Clarke6629
Barbour5755
Marion57424
Lowndes57224
Marengo55215
Hale47626
Bullock46411
Winston45311
Perry4424
Bibb4385
Wilcox42910
Monroe4214
Randolph40110
Pickens4009
Conecuh39310
Washington39112
Sumter36018
Lawrence3491
Macon33514
Crenshaw3185
Choctaw28312
Cherokee2737
Henry2633
Geneva2611
Clay2585
Greene25111
Lamar2222
Fayette2075
Cleburne1271
Coosa1012
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