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Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Four Months After Sunshine Compounding Pharmacy Raided Owner Charged in Federal Indictment
Sunshine Pharmacy owner's arrest in Naples part of 8-city Medicare fraud sweep
FORT MYERS — The arrest Tuesday of the owner of Sunshine Pharmacy and his mother in Naples on charges of conspiracy to commit health-care fraud was part of an eight-city sweep nationally to crack down on Medicare false billings, federal authorities said.
Del Parrish, 44, and his 73-year-old mother, Patricia Parrish, were in federal court in Fort Myers on Tuesday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Polster Chappell. The magistrate released Del Parrish on a $300,000 bond and set his mother’s at $250,000. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 3 at 9:30 a.m.
A complaint and affidavit, unsealed Tuesday in U.S. District Court, says the Parrishes conspired to submit fraudulent claims through Sunshine Pharmacy and Sunshine Solutions Pharmacy for expensive medications, including antidepressants and an appetite stimulant.
The complaint, sealed since May 8 so agents could arrest them before they learned of the charges, says the medications weren’t prescribed.
The case is part of a Medicare Fraud Strike Force initiative by agents that resulted in charges against 87 others, including doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, for alleged Medicare fraud schemes involving roughly $223 million in false billings.
Seven others will be prosecuted in U.S. District Court’s Middle District, which covers 35 counties, including Collier and Lee.
“Health-care fraud compromises the integrity of our medical system,” said U.S. Attorney Robert E. O’Neill, who heads the Middle District office. “Not only does it weaken our economy, it compromises the professional standard of care. We must work to ensure that those individuals who violate and abuse the intent of these public programs are investigated and prosecuted vigorously.”
A 14-page arrest affidavit filed with the complaint against the Parrishes shows the investigation began last year in July, after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General was alerted by another federal agency.
The sworn affidavit by federal agent Brian Harris, who was assisted by Collier sheriff’s deputies and Naples police, says investigators obtained records, interviewed four former employees, doctors and others to examine alleged fraud from as early as February 2009 to July 2012.
The affidavit says the Parrishes submitted bills to Medicaid, Medicare and Tricare, a military program, for medications never dispensed at Sunshine and that customers complained they’d been billed for drugs they never received.
Patricia Parrish and others submitted claims to obtain payments and generate revenue to keep the struggling pharmacy operating, according to the affidavit, which says the Parrishes were confronted by an employee and agreed to stop, but didn’t.
“(A former employee) recalled that at times when he-she worked at the pharmacy, ‘random’ and unexplained prescriptions would come off the printer as though they needed to be filled,” the affidavit says. “(The employee) indicated that these unexplained prescriptions were printed by Patricia Parrish.”
Court documents show an employee said the Parrishes falsified prescriptions from many doctors, including a local hospice physician who often prescribed Megace, an appetite stimulant that Del Parrish submitted claims for at 15 times the dosage the doctor usually prescribed.
Court records show another employee said Del Parrish changed prescriptions to other medications, saying the changes were authorized by prescribing doctors. The employee said one patient complained to the Parrishes after getting a prescription for a medication her doctor hadn’t ordered and that she was allergic to, records show.
Court documents show another employee said Patricia Parrish had a book containing hospice patients’ credit card information and instructions from her son about which medications she should bill for. The employee said four others worked in the billing department with Patricia Parrish and she’d reprimand them for not joining the billing scheme, court records show.
Tuesday’s court hearing came four months after federal agents on Jan. 17 raided Sunshine’s compounding pharmacy and billing department at 5482 Rattlesnake Hammock Road. Days after the raid by federal authorities with the involvement of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Del Parrish voluntarily relinquished his license to prescribe controlled substances.