From The Tribune staff reports
BIRMINGHAM – A Tuscaloosa pharmaceutical sales representative was sentenced Tuesday after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in a scheme designed to fraudulently bill health insurance plans.
U.S. District Court Judge Annemarie C. Axon sentenced Brett Taft, 47, of Tuscaloosa, to 12 months in prison and six months of home detention and ordered him to pay a fine of $1,000 and restitution of approximately $2.2 million. Taft was the owner and sole member of the sales company BTAFT Medical, LLC.
He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud related to a June 2019 Superseding Indictment involving Paul Roberts, M.D., of Fultondale, and pharmacist Stanley Reeves of Demopolis.
“This case is another unfortunate example of some in the medical field putting greed over patients’ welfare,” said U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona. “We thank the many medical professionals who place patient health and ethical integrity first and will continue to prosecute those who instead choose to engage in criminal conduct for financial gain.”
“The FBI and our partners will continue to work tirelessly to ensure public and private health care dollars are used as intended, to promote the health and safety of all Americans and safeguard continued access to critical health care services,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp, Jr.
According to his plea agreement, Taft, along with Reeves, owner of F&F Drugs in Demopolis, and Roberts, a physician and co-owner of Southeast Urgent Care in Fultondale, participated in a scheme to fraudulently bill health insurance plans for medically unnecessary compounded drugs. To induce Roberts to issue prescriptions for these medically unnecessary drugs, Taft provided Roberts with pre-written prescription forms for the compounded drug recipes. Roberts then issued the prescriptions, sometimes without patients’ knowledge, and sent them to F&F Drugs, which then filled the prescriptions and billed the cost to health insurance plans.
Reeves would then pay Taft a portion of the billing proceeds from these insurance plans, with Taft using some of those proceeds to make payments to Roberts. In addition, as part of the conspiracy and to induce patients to accept these medically unnecessary drugs, F&F Drugs would waive patient co-pays in violation of the health insurance plan rules.
To maximize profit from each prescription, the co-defendants agreed that F&F Drugs would automatically refill the compounded drugs that Roberts referred regardless of whether patients needed those drugs.
Between April 2012 and February 2014, F&F Drugs billed health insurance plans approximately $2.2 million for medically unnecessary compounded drugs issued as part of the conspiracy.
Roberts and Reeves previously pleaded guilty and were both sentenced in September 2020. Roberts pleaded guilty to 12 counts of prescribing controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose, two counts of health care fraud conspiracy, and two counts of participating in a health care fraud scheme.
Roberts stipulated to a 72-month sentence and agreed to surrender his Alabama medical license. He also agreed to pay a fine of $100,000 and restitution of $2.2 million.
Reeves pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit the above-described compounded drug health care fraud scheme. According to his plea agreement, between April 2012 and February 2014, F&F Drugs billed health insurance plans approximately $10.5 million for medically unnecessary compounded drugs issued by various doctors, including those issued under the scheme involving Taft and Roberts.
Reeves received a 38-month sentence and agreed to surrender his pharmacist license to the Alabama Board of Pharmacy. He also agreed to pay a fine of $100,000, restitution of $10.5 million, and forfeiture of $900,000 with $300,000 due on the date he was sentenced.