Over on Florida’s west coast sits Pasco County. Comprised of approximately a half million people, the county is named for Samuel Pasco. It’s considered a bedroom community known for its many parks and trails along rivers, lakes and the Gulf of Mexico as well as being a great place to go fishing. This week, however, Pasco County became known for something else.
Two marketing firm owners from the area have pleaded guilty to a health care kickback scheme.
40 year-old Frank Monte and 52 year-old Kimberley Anderson entered their guilty plea on Tuesday for their roles in a conspiracy to pay health care kickbacks. They each face up to five years in prison and must each forfeit $1,717,925.50 in assets.
As reported by the Middle District of Florida branch of the United States Department of Justice, Monte and Anderson owned the marketing company, Centurion Compounding, Inc. which entered into a marketing agreement with the owners of a Pinellas County-based pharmacy called Lifecare. Centurion employed sales representatives to market creams for pain and scars, among others, to beneficiaries of healthcare plans such as TRICARE.
These creams generally cost between $900 and $21,000 for a one-month supply.
“Between June and November 2014, Monte, Anderson, the owners of LifeCare pharmacy (Carlos Mazariegos and Benjamin Nundy), and a Pinellas-based physician (Dr. Anthony Baldizzi), agreed that, in exchange for paying kickbacks to Baldizzi equal to 10% of the after-cost amount of each claim paid by TRICARE or other health care benefit programs, Baldizzi would write prescriptions for compounded medications filled by LifeCare for Centurion-recruited patients,” reports the DoJ.
Mazariegos acted on behalf of the conspirators and offered Baldizzi such kickbacks as cash payments and even a new BMW M3. In return, Baldizzi would write prescriptions for compounded creams which the conspirators would submit claims for to TRICARE. This resulted in TRICARE paying LifeCare over $4.4 million – a profit of about $4 million for the company. Most claims were for patients recruited by Centurion.
The profits were split three ways.
The profits were split as follows: 45 percent to LifeCare, 45 percent to Centurion and 10 percent to Baldizzi. With their share of the profits, Monte and Anderson were able to purchase both property and luxury cars. Among their seized items were a 2009 Bentley Continental; a 2012 Lamborghini Aventador; a 2012 Itasca motorhome, a 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG; a 2014 Maserati; a 2005 Ford GT and a 2012 Fisker Karma just to name a few.
In previous cases, Carlos Mazariegos and Benjamin Nundy pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and Anthony Baldizzi pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and receiving healthcare kickbacks. They are all scheduled to be sentenced in November and December of this year.
“The guilty pleas of Monte and Anderson conclude a multi-agency investigation that lasted more than five years, resulting in the successful prosecution of 10 defendants,” notes the DoJ report, “As a result of this investigation, TRICARE claims totaling more than $58 million have been repaid or reversed, and an additional $6 million has been repaid to TRICARE by the conspirators.”
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