Five Tampa Bay-area pharmacists have been charged with defrauding the federal government and stealing from Medicaid, Medicare and Tricare, the military insurance program, by submitting fraudulent reimbursement requests for prescriptions never filled.
Federal prosecutors allege Jatin Patel submitted false reimbursement requests from his pharmacy in Clearwater and that two other pharmacists, Rajnish Mehta and Satender Singh, provided him with forged prescriptions to support the claims.
Patel later told investigators that he submitted those claims for $260,000 and split the money with Mehta and Singh.
A regional Medicare fraud task force, the pharmacists are accused of stealing more than $1.5 million by submitting hundreds of false prescription claims between 2006 and 2008.
Patel ultimately pleaded guilty to making a false statement to a federal health care program and is serving seven months in federal prison, a lighter sentence than he might have otherwise received because he assisted law enforcement in the investigation.
Mehta is represented by Tampa Bay area defense attorney Bjorn Brunvand. Mehta and Brunvand are discussing possible plea arrangements with prosecutors. Singh and pharmacist Naresh Jain are currently awaiting trial.
Also charged is pharmacist Sachin Amin, who previously pleaded guilty to two counts of making false statements to a federal health care program and is serving 18 months in prison. Like Patel, he cooperated with authorities. Amin is also represented by Bjorn Brunvand.
In addition to repaying funds realized through the fraud, Amin also likely faces deportation to India, according to Brunvand.
Federal prosecutors allege that all five pharmacists have ties to one another. They claim that Singh interned with Amin, then worked part-time for Patel before opening a pharmacy of his own with Mehta. Mehta and Jain reportedly operated a Hudson pharmacy together. Mehta and Singh allegedly owned a Lady Lake pharmacy.
According to investigators, the five pharmacists shared names of patients who subscribed to government insurance programs, using the names to bill for expensive drugs that were never provided.
Federal law enforcement tells the media that the incidence and investigation of Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare fraud is on the increase.