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Two doctors pleaded guilty, Nov. 21, in federal court to conspiring to commit health care fraud and mail fraud.

The doctors, Shahjahan Sultan, 37, of Madison, Miss., and Thomas Edward Sturdavant, 56, of Kingsport, Tenn., were part of a multi-million dollar web of fraud and deceit that has, so far, seen more than a dozen formerly well-respected members of their communities charged with fraud over two years including former Vicksburg resident Wade Walters.

In all, the fraud schemes have been responsible for nearly $1 billion in fraudulent health-care activity centered in the Hattiesburg, Miss., area since 2012, according to reports in the Clarion Ledger and the Hattiesburg American newspapers.

“These doctors violated their oaths and harmed our military, our veterans, and every American taxpayer by defrauding TRICARE,” U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst said in a statement about Sultan and Sturdavant. “I want to commend our law enforcement partners, DOJ trial attorneys, and our federal prosecutors for bringing these criminals to justice. We will continue to aggressively pursue criminals who pilfer our national treasury and do all that we can to protect victims of these crimes,”.

In May 2014, Sultan entered into a contract with a pharmacy located in Jackson County, Miss. Sultan agreed to prescribe expensive compound medications to individuals in exchange for the pharmacy paying him 35 percent of the reimbursements it received for the prescriptions. Health care benefit programs, including TRICARE, were billed for the compounded medications.

Sultan employed others who identified individuals in places like Jones County, who had insurance which covered the expensive compounded medications. Sultan met with the insured individuals over telemedicine video-chat sessions. However, during the meetings, he did not perform thorough examinations of the individuals and did not determine the medical necessity of the compounded medications he prescribed. Sultan knew that some of the added ingredients in the compounded medication were not effective and were added solely to increase the reimbursement value. On occasion, Sultan and Sturdavant even called in compounded medications for individuals they had never previously examined.

Sultan hired Sturdavant in September 2014 and agreed to pay him $900,000 annually to perform telemedicine services and to prescribe the compounded medications dispensed by the pharmacy. From May 2014 through October 2014, health care benefit programs, including TRICARE, reimbursed the pharmacy more than $5,000,000 based on claims submitted by the pharmacy in connection with the expensive compounded medications ordered by Sultan and Sturdavant.

Sultan and Sturdavant will be sentenced Feb. 26, 2020 in Hattiesburg. They each face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, 3 years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.

Two nurses connected with this aspect of the case, Freda Covington and Fallon Deneem Page, have also pleaded guilty.

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