A federal jury convicted a Tennessee physician and his wife yesterday in the Northern District of Alabama for unlawfully distributing opioids, providing unnecessary services and defrauding insurers from their now-shuttered Alabama clinics.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Mark Murphy, 65, and his wife, Jennifer Murphy, 65, both of Lewisburg, owned and operated North Alabama Pain Services (NAPS), which closed its Decatur and Madison offices in early 2017. Over the approximately five-year period leading up to the clinic closing its Alabama locations, Murphy and his wife, who was the office manager, caused over $50 million in fraudulent or unnecessary medical services to be charged to Medicare, TRICARE, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama and others. Evidence at trial showed that NAPS provided pre-signed prescriptions to thousands of patients a month, including prescriptions written outside the usual course of professional practice without a legitimate medical purpose. The Murphys also solicited and received paid payments for referring fraudulent or unnecessary services to patients. Jennifer Murphy was also convicted of tax-related charges for underreporting clinic income.
Both defendants were convicted of conspiracy to unlawfully distribute controlled substances and conspiracy to commit health care fraud, along with various substantive counts related to the same. They were also convicted of conspiring to defraud the United States and receiving kickbacks. The Murphys face a maximum of 20 years in prison for the drug charges and a maximum of 10 years in prison for the health care fraud charges. Both defendants face a maximum of five years in prison for charges stemming from violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute, and Jennifer Murphy faces up to three years in prison for the tax charges. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the US Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. Sentencing is scheduled for June 30.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; US Attorney Prim F. Escalona for the Northern District of Alabama; Special Agent in Charge Bradford L. Byerly of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) New Orleans Field Division; Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp Jr. of the FBI Birmingham Division; Special Agent in Charge James E. Dorsey of IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Atlanta Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Tamala E. Miles of the Department of Health and Human Service Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Atlanta Region made the announcement.
FBI, HHS-OIG, IRS-CI and DEA investigated the case.
Assistant Chief Jillian Willis and Trial Attorney Emily Gurskis of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant US Attorney JB Ward of the Northern District of Alabama are prosecuting the case.
The Fraud Section leads the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force. Since its inception in October 2018, the ARPO Strike Force, which operates in 10 districts, has charged more than 90 defendants who are collectively responsible for distributing more than 105 million pills. The ARPO Strike Force is part of the Health Care Fraud Strike Force Program, which since March 2007 has charged more than 4,200 defendants who collectively have billed the Medicare program for more than $19 billion. In addition, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services, are taking steps to hold providers accountable for their involvement in health care fraud schemes. More information can be found at: https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/health-care-fraud-unit.