Feds charge seven in Tampa Bay opioid, health care fraud schemes

The U.S. Attorney’s Office says one scheme distributed thousands of illegal opioids. Another cost Medicaid more than $1.2 million.
The Sam M. Gibbons United States Courthouse in downtown Tampa.
The Sam M. Gibbons United States Courthouse in downtown Tampa. [ Times ]
Published Oct. 3, 2019|Updated Oct. 3, 2019

TAMPA — One case involved pharmacists and clinic employees who conspired to illegally distribute the opioid drugs that have killed millions, prosecutors say.

In another, the owner of a mental health clinic stole doctors’ identities to rip off more than $1 million from Medicaid.

RELATED STORY: Florida’s opioid crisis: billions of pills, millions in campaign cash

The charges all came down last week in what the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa dubbed a “significant health care fraud and opioid enforcement action.”

So far, four defendants have agreed to plead guilty. Their plea agreements and other court documents offer a glimpse into two complex investigations.

The first begins with Lucretia Mullan, 34, and Robin Lloyd, 37, who worked the front desk at a pain management clinic named in court documents as “Pain and Wellness Center.”

During a one-year period in 2015 and 2016, the pair forged a doctor’s signature on at least 54 prescriptions, using patient names that were given to them by Patrice Jackson, 37, who was a patient at the clinic, according to court records.

They sold the prescriptions to Jackson for $300 each.

Jackson took the prescriptions to HP Pharmacy in Pinellas Park. Jessica Evans, 34, a pharmacy technician, helped fill the prescriptions, knowing they were fraudulent, according to a plea agreement.

Jackson would then dispense the drugs to others, court records state. Federal prosecutors tallied thousands of oxycodone, Xanax and methadone pills that were distributed through the scheme.

Evans, Mullan, Lloyd, and Jackson all signed plea agreements shortly after they were formally charged last week with conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. Each of them faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.

Evans’ employer, Hong Truong, a pharmacist at HP Pharmacy, was aware of the illegal activities, prosecutors alleged.

Truong, 54, is charged in a federal indictment with 16 counts, including conspiracy, unlawful distribution of a controlled substance, and use of a place for unlawful drug distribution. In court last week, she entered a plea of not guilty.

In another case, the manager of a St. Petersburg psychiatric clinic is accused of stealing the identities of doctors and counselors and using them to submit fraudulent claims to Medicaid.

Marcus Anderson, 34, operated Tampa Bay Behavioral Health Clinic in St. Petersburg, according to an indictment. He is accused in a scheme that netted more than $1.2 million in Medicaid funds.

If found guilty, Anderson faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.

In a third case, Teresa Johnson, 53, of Citrus County is accused of submitting false and fraudulent claims to Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare and ChampVA, on behalf of a doctor who operated clinics in Crystal River, Spring Hill and Celebration.

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Johnson faces up to 10 years in prison.