Mississippi doctor gets 5-year sentence in hospice fraud

Published 5:00 pm Thursday, February 9, 2023

A Mississippi physician has been sentenced to five years in prison for healthcare fraud connected to hospice operations in the state’s impoverished Delta region.

Federal prosecutors said Dr. Scott E. Nelson, 58, of Cleveland, Mississippi, was medical director for several fraudulent hospice operations. A jury convicted him last April.

Evidence presented during the two-week trial showed Nelson referred numerous patients to hospices even though they were not terminally ill, and some of patients were able to testify at the trial almost 10 years after Nelson put them on hospice care, according to a news release Thursday from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Mississippi.

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Jurors found Nelson was responsible for more than $16 million in fraudulent payments from Medicare to hospice organizations.

U. S. District Judge Debra Brown sentenced Nelson during a hearing Wednesday in Greenville, and court records show Nelson is to report to prison June 5. In addition to the prison sentence, Brown ordered him to pay $15 million in restitution.

“Instead of earning an honest living by treating patients and billing fairly, this doctor chose to defraud the government and the taxpayers of money that was intended to help terminal patients needing end of life care,” Clay Joyner, the U.S. attorney for northern Mississippi, said in the news release Thursday.

Nelson’s co-defendants – Charlene Brandon, Wendell Brandon and Annette Lofton – previously pleaded guilty to healthcare fraud charges. The U.S. attorney’s news release said the Nelson trial was the culmination of a yearslong effort to investigate and prosecute hospice fraud in northern Mississippi.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General and the Mississippi attorney general’s office investigated the case.