Mississippi man pleads guilty in big health care fraud case

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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi businessman faces up to 20 years in prison and $500,000 in fines after pleading guilty to his part in a $510 million health care fraud scheme involving high-priced prescription pain cream.

Wade Walters, 53, of Hattiesburg, appeared in federal court Thursday and pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, the Hattiesburg American reported.

Sentencing is set for October.

According to court documents, the federal government said Walters was responsible for nearly $290 million of the fraud. A forfeiture order was entered with the plea agreement, and more than $30 million of Walters’ assets will be seized.

U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett ordered Walters to be taken into custody after his plea. The judge said Walters’ attorneys could file a motion for him to be released on bond, but Walters would remain in custody until he rules on the motion.

Walters was charged in a 37-count indictment and had been scheduled for trial beginning Monday in Gulfport.

The government said Walters and at least two other unnamed defendants conspired to commit fraud involving compounded pain creams and vitamin and weight-loss pills billed to a military health care insurer and other health benefits providers.

Most of the pain creams cost around $11,000 to $14,000 per prescription. Instead of writing a prescription for each medication, photocopied prescription pads were made for the expensive formulas to maximize profit. Refills were sent to patients automatically.

Thirteen others have been found guilty in the scheme. Four pleaded guilty in a related scheme and several other cases are pending.

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