1. Business

Five Tampa Bay area men charged in billion-dollar health care scheme

Check for the latest breaking news and developments.
Published Oct. 16, 2018

Five Tampa Bay area residents are wrapped up in what federal prosecutors are calling a billion-dollar telemedicine rip off.

Starting in 2015, the defendants and their pharmacy companies set up an elaborate scheme that fraudulently solicited insurance coverage information and prescriptions from tens of thousands of consumers across the country, according to a 40-page indictment. They then used the information to sell pain creams and other similar products.

Doctors approved the prescriptions not knowing that the defendants and their companies had "massively marked up the prices" of the invalidly prescribed drugs, federal prosecutors said. For instance, several of the pharmacies paid $27 for a lidocaine numbing ointment and billed up to $381, an increase of more than 1,300 percent.

To ensure the most profit, some of the defendants "directed their employees to 'test bill' or 'phish' for the highest reimbursement items," the indictment stated. "These employees routinely submitted claims ... for this purpose, contrary to one of more provider agreements."

RELATED: As corporate debt rises, so do worries about it triggering the next recession

RELATED: Learning from a spy: Business travelers train in Tampa to thwart pickpockets, kidnappings and surveillance

The scheme bilked $174 million from private health care companies, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, federal prosecutors said. In addition, the five men and their companies submitted at least $931 million in fraudulent claims.

Andrew Assad, 33, of Palm Harbor; Peter Bolos, 41 of Lutz; and Michael Palso, 44, of Odessa were indicted along with their compounding pharmacies: Synergy Pharmacy Services in Palm Harbor, and Precision Pharmacy Management in Clearwater.

MORE: Go here for more Business News

Larry Everett Smith, 48, of Pinellas Park was also indicted. He ran Tampa Bay-based Tanith Enterprises, ULD Wholesale Group, Alpha-Omega Pharmacy, and Germaine Pharmacy along with Zoetic Pharmacy in Houston,, Texas.

The defendants and their companies face a total of 32 counts. All four men were charged with mail fraud, conspiracy to commit health care fraud and introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce. If convicted, they face up to 20 years in prison for each mail fraud charge, up to 10 years for each conspiracy charge and up to three years for the third charge. They and their companies could also be required to forfeit up to $154 million.

Last week, all four were released on bond after appearing in a federal courtroom in Tampa's Middle District of Florida. The indictment was filed in the Eastern District of Tennessee.

Seminole resident Scott Roix, 52, the CEO of HealthRight, has already pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy for his role in the case, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tennessee.

Roix also pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud in a separate case. He used HealthRight's telemarketing facilities to "fraudulently sell millions of dollars worth of products such as weight loss pills, skin creams and testosterone supplements through concocted claims of efficacy and intentionally deficient customer service designed to stall consumer complaints," the news release said.

While Roix faces up to 5 years in prison for each conspiracy charge, helping federal prosecutors with the case against the other men could help reduce his sentence.

Roix's lawyer, Christopher Kise, said his client spent his life building a successful marketing business.

"HealthRight's role here was primarily focused on the marketing aspects," said Kise, who served as solicitor general for Florida under former Gov. Charlie Crist. "While Mr. Roix certainly did not from the outset seek to engage in any unlawful conduct, once he became aware of the full nature and scope of the enterprise, he wisely chose to do the right thing for himself and his family and to accept responsibility."

Contact Graham Brink at Follow @GrahamBrink.


  1. Jessica LaBouve, a penetration tester for cybersecurity company A-LIGN, poses for a portrait in the A-LIGN office on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019 in Tampa. Companies hire A-LIGN to figure out where their digital security weak spots are, and LaBouve is one of the "benevolent hackers" that finds them. ALLIE GOULDING  |  Times
    Jessica LaBouve of A-LIGN works with companies to make their applications and platforms more secure.
  2. Stephen A. Schwarzman, CEO of the Blackstone Group, speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, earlier this year. MARKUS SCHREIBER  |  AP
    The billionaire also talks trade with China in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times.
  3. The economies of Canada and Florida go together like, well, palm fronds and maple leaves, as seen outside the Sweetwater RV Resort in Zephyrhills. (Times file photo) KATE CALDWELL  |  Tampa Bay Times
    To qualify under the Canadian Snowbird Act introduced in Congress, the visitors would have to be older than 50 and would have to own or rent a home here.
  4. Tampa investor and owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning Jeff Vinik, right, speaks about his investments in the video game industry at the eSports Summit Wednesday in Tampa as Matt Samost, Vice President of New Ventures for Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment looks on. LUIS SANTANA   |   TIMES  |  Tampa Bay Times
    A summit at USF brought together major players and explored the possibility of an esports arena.
  5. Neeld-Gordon Garden Center, open at this location since 1925, is closing on Sept. 28. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times
    The development of Pinellas County and the arrival of the big box stores helped hasten the store’s demise.
  6. 7-Eleven Inc. is opening its first location in a Brandon mall. Pictured is a location in Port Richey in 2018. | [Times (2018) TYLISA JOHNSON | TIMES  |  TyLisa Johnson | Times
    It is the first of eight mall locations opening this year.
  7. Tampa has a pilot program underway to test scooters. Clearwater could soon have one of its own. But if it's limited to downtown, who will use it? CHRIS URSO  |   Times
    The city’s plan is coming into focus, but there will be limitations.
  8. Pages from a confidential whistleblower's report obtained by The Associated Press, along with two printed Facebook pages that were active on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, are photographed in Washington. Facebook likes to say that its automated systems remove the vast majority of prohibited content glorifying the Islamic State group and al-Qaida before it’s reported. But a whistleblower’s complaint shows that Facebook itself has inadvertently produced dozens of pages in their names. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick) JON ELSWICK  |  AP
    A whistleblower’s complaint shows that the company has inadvertently provided the two extremist groups with a networking and recruitment tool.
  9. Pasco County community news TMCCARTY80  |  Tara McCarty
    Neighbors voice concerns about increased traffic, water quality and adhering to the county’s protections for northeast Pasco.
  10. This satellite image shows Hurricane Michael on Oct. 9, 2018, as it enters the Gulf of Mexico. It made landfall near Mexico Beach in the Panhandle as a Category 5 storm. [Photo courtesy of NOAA] NOAA
    Nearly a year after the storm, 18,000 claims are still open.