Mississippi Pharmacist Returns $7.1 Million Unlawfully Taken From Medicare
The federal government has received $7.1 million in forfeited funds that were unlawfully obtained from Medicare by a Mississippi man who was convicted in 2021 of health care fraud and conspiracy to commit health care fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona and Tamala E. Miles, Special Agent in Charge with the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General.
In August 2021, Phillip Anthony Minga pleaded guilty to four counts of health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. In December 2021, Chief U.S. District Court Judge L. Scott Coogler sentenced Minga to 78 months in prison. At that time, the Court ordered Minga to repay more than $16.1 million in restitution and ordered him to forfeit $7.1 million. After filing a motion to forfeit certain property, the United States last week confirmed the receipt of $7.1 million from Minga. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will seek to restore these funds to the Medicare Program.
“It is always a goal of the justice system to make the victim whole following wrongdoing. When public agencies like Medicare are defrauded for personal gain, it harms all American taxpayers,” said United States Attorney Prim F. Escalona. “I’m grateful that the collaborative work of federal law enforcement agencies and state partners in Alabama and Mississippi have restored taxpayer dollars to an agency purposed to serve some of the most vulnerable in our communities,” added Escalona.
“Healthcare fraud is not a victimless crime. Defrauding federal healthcare programs not only wastes valuable taxpayer dollars, it also takes resources away from individuals in need of medical care,” said Tamala E. Miles, Special Agent in Charge with the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “HHS-OIG is proud to work with our law enforcement partners to return these funds to the Medicare program.”
Minga failed to report a 2010 wire fraud conviction to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Consequently, on October 17, 2016, Minga was excluded from the Medicare Program for 10 years. The exclusion provided that Medicare would not pay claims submitted by anyone who employed Minga in a management or administrative role. Nevertheless, from 2016 until 2021, Minga committed health care fraud by continuing to manage and control pharmacies that submitted claims for payment to Medicare.
In order to avoid detection, Minga ensured that those submitting Medicare enrollment/revalidation paperwork for these pharmacies would not disclose Minga’s ownership interest or managerial role in these pharmacies. From October 17, 2016, to August 16, 2021, Medicare paid approximately $16,109,446.67 to the pharmacies in which Minga had an ownership interest or managerial role.
HHS was the lead federal investigative agency. HHS was closely assisted by the State of Mississippi’s Office of the Attorney General and the State of Alabama’s State Board of Pharmacy. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tom Borton, Austin Shutt, and Kristen Osborne led the forfeiture recovery proceedings, while Lloyd Peeples, Ryan Rummage, and Don Long prosecuted the criminal health care fraud case.