A fifth Tampa man pleaded guilty on Monday in one of the biggest health care fraud cases in history.
Larry Everett Smith, 50, is accused of conspiring to defraud pharmacy benefit managers out of $175 million by submitting nearly $1 billion worth of fraudulent prescriptions — all of which were purchased from a telemarketing company, according to a new release from the U.S. Department of Justice. He now faces up to 10 years in prison, with his sentencing set to be held on Oct. 25.
“Today’s announcement demonstrates that companies and individuals who place profits above patient safety will be held accountable for their actions,” said a statement from Special Agent Justin C. Fielder of the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations Miami Field Office. “We will continue to work with the Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners to bring to justice those who jeopardize the U.S. public health.”
Smith’s indictment alleged that the operation began in 2015 and lasted through the beginning of 2018.
Federal prosecutors said the fraudulent prescriptions Smith and others helped to fill were for topical pain creams, vitamins and other products that were sold at marked-up prices to patients.
A written plea agreement by Smith indicated that he worked with others from throughout Tampa Bay — including others who have already pleaded guilty in the case. They were Scott Roix of Largo, Mihir Taneja of Tampa, and Arun Kapoor of Temple Terrace.
Smith said he also worked with Sterling-Knight Pharmaceuticals LLC, HealthRight LLC, Alpha-Omega Pharmacy LLC, Germaine Pharmacy Inc., Zoetic Pharmacy and Tanith Enterprises to defraud benefit managers.
Roix and HealthRight pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud in 2018, agreeing to pay restitution of $5 million. Roix faces a term of up to 10 years in prison and his sentencing is set for the same date as Smith. Not listed in Smith’s plea agreement was the fifth man from Tampa Bay, Maikel Bolos, who pleaded guilty to mail fraud and health care fraud in the same case last month.
Smith agreed Monday to pay restitution of nearly $25 million and forfeit approximately $3 million, according to a statement from the District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee.
Taneja, Kapoor and Sterling-Knight agreed to pay restitution of approximately $21 million, according to a news release. Sterling-Knight also agreed to forfeit just over $6 million.
The potential sentences for Taneja and Kapoor could be as much as three years in prison, while Bolos faces a term of up to five years. Sentencing for those three and Sterling-Knight is set for Oct. 18.
The trial of the remaining defendants will begin on July 13 at a district court in Knoxville, Tenn.
“Health care fraud can affect everyone, and Homeland Security Investigations is committed to stopping these criminals in their tracks,” said Tampa acting Special Agent in Charge Kevin Sibley in a statement. “This investigation highlights the importance of law enforcement partnerships across the nation and around the world.”