Jury convicts Mississippi doctor of fraud; he sent patients to hospice who didn’t need it

Published 9:53 pm Tuesday, April 5, 2022

A federal jury has convicted a Mississippi doctor of referring and certifying patients to hospice care who were not terminally ill and didn’t know what sort of treatment they would be getting.

Dr. Scott Nelson, of Cleveland, was found guilty on Monday of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Mississippi said in a news release Tuesday.

“In almost all cases, the patients had no idea they were being placed on hospice,” the news release said. It said patients testified that he didn’t tell them he was referring them to hospice care or explain what it was.

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Judge Debra M. Brown has scheduled sentencing for July 27, online court records show. He was convicted on one conspiracy count and seven of health care fraud. Each count carries up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Court documents and evidence show Nelson served as medical director for as many as 14 hospice providers from 2009 to 2014, receiving about $442,000 from them. Medicare paid the hospice owners more than $15 million based on Nelson’s patient referrals and certifications, prosecutors said.

They said co-defendants Charline Brandon, Wendell Brandon and Annette Lofton have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

Authorities said hospice employees routinely brought prospective patients to Nelson’s office and the doctor would then refer them to hospice, claiming to be their primary or attending physician.

He also certified patients as terminally ill when they were not, and he “robosigned” numerous medical records, allowing hospice owners to bill Medicare and Medicaid for services that were not medically necessary.

“This type of fraud drives up medical costs for those who truly need care and jeopardizes our entire health care system.” U.S. Attorney Clay Joyner said. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to work with all federal, state and local partners to do everything in our power to eradicate it.”