COLUMBUS — A jury convicted a Hilliard couple of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and health care fraud yesterday evening following a two-week trial before U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley.
Benjamin C. Glassman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Lamont Pugh III, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, Todd Wickerham, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Cincinnati Division, Timothy J. Plancon, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Steven W. Schierholt, Executive Director, State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy announced the verdict.
Darrell L. Bryant, 44, and Gifty Kusi, 35, owned and managed Health and Wellness Pharmacy on Blazer Parkway in Dublin. Bryant, Kusi, and Dr. Jornell Rivera also owned and operated Health and Wellness Medical Center, a suboxone clinic, also located in Dublin. Rivera served as the Medical Director for the medical center.
According to court documents and testimony, Bryant, Kusi and their co-conspirators marketed prescription creams in low-income neighborhoods and mailed those creams to Medicaid customers. They also billed for counseling services that weren’t provided, and billed for individual counseling sessions that actually occurred in a group setting.
As part of the conspiracy, Medicaid was billed for compound creams to treat pain, scarring and acne. Health and Wellness Pharmacy billed Medicaid $3 million for the creams.
The pharmacy marketed the compound creams at Clinic 5 (a Suboxone clinic), Sav-a-Lot and through a mobile van unit. Patients with CareSource were targeted and told they were receiving free samples of pain cream. Then they began to receive more cream in the mail without requesting more. These were also billed to CareSource.
Customers at Sav-a-Lot and in low-income neighborhoods were asked to fill out a survey asking about any conditions that they suffered from. Then, they would receive the compound creams in the mail every month, even when customers directed the co-conspirators to stop sending them. Many of these customers never met with a doctor, nor did they know the prescribing physician.
Also as part of the health care fraud scheme, Health and Wellness Medical Center submitted fraudulent claims to Medicaid for psychotherapy services that were never rendered to patients.
Specifically, patients indicated they would sit in a room with a timer. When the timer went off, they were allowed to leave and receive their Suboxone prescription. No counseling services were provided during this time. Some patients reported coloring in coloring books during the time they were in the room.
Co-conspirator Rivera pleaded guilty in May 2018 to making false statements related to health care matters. His sentencing hearing has been scheduled for 9am on January 11.
Another co-conspirator, Dr. Bernard Oppong, 60, of Blacklick, Ohio, was charged in a seven-count indictment on October 30, 2018.
U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the investigation of this case by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy, HHS-OIG, FBI and DEA, as well as Assistant United States Attorneys Kenneth F. Affeldt and Maritsa A. Flaherty, who are prosecuting the case.