A Pinellas based pharmacist, along with his business partner and a local physician, have all been named in a conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud that led to $5.3 million in claims to TRICARE for compounded medications.
Benjamin Nundy, a licensed pharmacist and co-owner of Lifecare Pharmacy, agreed that his pharmacy would pay Dr. Anthony Baldizzi a kickback for each prescription of compounded medication written by Baldizzi and filled at Lifecare. The entrepreneurial Baldizzi expanded the conspiracy by enlisting Centurion Compounding Inc., a "marketing" firm based in Wesley Chapel, Florida, to employ its sales representatives to market compounded creams for pain and scars to health care plan beneficiaries, particularly those covered by TRICARE. According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida, between May and November 2014, "Centurion directed patients that it had recruited and the physicians within its network to send all of their compounded cream prescriptions to Centurion." Centurion, in turn, forwarded the prescriptions to Lifecare to be filled. Nundy, his business partner Carlos Mazariegos, and Centurion agreed to pay kickbacks to Baldizzi equal to approximately 10% of the after-cost amount of each claim paid by TRICARE and other healthcare programs. Given that the compounded creams typically ranged in price from $900 to $21,000 for a one-month-supply, the kickbacks added up fast, netting the conspirators enough to cut a $71,900 check to a car dealer for a BMW for Baldizzi. In addition, the trio billed Medicare for over $1 million for compounded medications that Lifecare made with bulk ingredients, rather than the crushed tables that Medicare reimbursement rules required.
Nundy faces five years in prison for his role in the conspiracy. Earlier this month, Mazariegos pleaded guilty to engaging in a conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Baldizza has been indicted for conspiracy, receiving healthcare kickbacks, and engaging in illegal monetary transactions. He faces trial in January 2018.