Former Mississippi pharmacist headed to prison for next 10 years after fraud plea

Published 9:41 pm Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Federal prosecutors say a former Mississippi pharmacist has been sentenced to the maximum 10 years in prison for a $180 million health insurance fraud scheme involving unnecessary prescriptions for expensive pain creams and other medications.

Mitchell “Chad” Barrett, 55, now of Gulf Breeze, Florida, was sentenced Tuesday in Mississippi’s Southern District, a news release said. He is among more than a dozen people who have pleaded guilty or been convicted in connection with the scheme.

Prosecutors say he paid kickbacks for referrals of medically unnecessary prescriptions. He was involved in more than $180 million in fraudulent billings, including more than $50 million paid by federal health care programs, the statement said.

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Barrett pleaded guilty in August 2021 to conspiracy to engage in monetary transactions in criminally derived property.

Prosecutors said in 2018 that pharmacy fraud in Mississippi totaled more than $400 million. Pharmacists figured out how to hand-make medications — typically skin creams — with ingredients for which insurers would pay big money. They also hired marketers to seek and sometimes pay off physicians, nurse practitioners, dentists and others who could prescribe the drugs, prosecutors alleged.

A marketer, Thomas Wilburn Shoemaker of Rayville, Louisiana, pleaded guilty last August.

Pharmacist Thomas E. Spell Jr. of Ridgeland pleaded guilty in 2018 to helping run a fraud that collected $244 million from a federal military health insurer, and was sentenced to 10 years. A statement acknowledged that he personally received more than $29 million between December 2014 and January 2016.

In 2019, pharmacy owner and manager Glenn Doyle Beach of Sumrall pleaded guilty in a plot that collected more than $200 million from a federal military health insurer and others. His sentence is 14 years.

Pharmacist and pharmacy co-owner David “Jason” Rutland, of Bolton, pleaded guilty in 2021 to federal charges of conspiracy to solicit and pay kickbacks and bribes. He got a 5-year sentence.