A Florida man pleaded guilty today to conspiring to commit health care fraud in an $8.3 million scheme where pharmacy owners paid kickbacks and bribes to telemarketers and telemedicine providers to secure orders for medically unnecessary prescriptions that were billed to Medicare.
According to court documents, Michael Murphy, 37, of Fort Lauderdale, invested in Cure Pharmacy in Jacksonville and two other pharmacies that participated in the Medicare program. From in or around November 2019 through in or around March 2021, Murphy and his co-conspirators paid kickbacks and bribes to telemarketing companies in exchange for recruiting Medicare beneficiaries to accept prescriptions for various medications – mainly topical creams – which the beneficiaries usually did not want or need.
Murphy and his co-conspirators also paid kickbacks and bribes to telemedicine companies that employed or contracted with physicians who signed the prescriptions. The physicians had no physician-patient relationship with the beneficiaries and typically signed the prescriptions after a cursory telephone conversation with the beneficiary or with no contact at all. After obtaining Medicare beneficiary information and the signed prescriptions, Murphy and his co-conspirators submitted claims to Medicare for medically unnecessary medications, sometimes through multiple pharmacies they owned and controlled in a practice known as “recycling,” and were reimbursed $8.3 million by Medicare Part D.
Murphy pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Murphy will be sentenced at a later date and faces a maximum of 10 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Roger B. Handberg for the Middle District of Florida; Special Agent in Charge Sherri Onks of the FBI Jacksonville Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Omar Pérez Aybar of the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) made the announcement.
The FBI Jacksonville Field Office and HHS-OIG investigated the case.
Trial Attorney Gary Winters of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Mesrobian for the Middle District of Florida are prosecuting the case.