BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A federal judge in Alabama on Thursday sentenced a Mississippi resident to 6 1/2 years in prison after the man pleaded guilty to federal charges tied to billing that pharmacies submitted to Medicare.
Phillip Minga, 56, of Amory, Mississippi, managed or controlled pharmacies in Mississippi and Alabama, according to a Justice Department news release. He pleaded guilty in August to four counts of health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.
During sentencing Thursday in Birmingham, U.S. District Court Judge L. Scott Coogler also ordered Minga to forfeit $7.1 million and pay more than $16.1 million in restitution, according to the release.
“By continuing to own or manage pharmacies in Alabama and Mississippi that accepted Medicare patients, Minga did exactly what he agreed not to do,” U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona said.
According to prosecutors, Minga signed a document on Oct. 17, 2016, to be excluded for 10 years from Medicare, a federal health insurance program that covers people 65 and older and some younger people with disabilities. The agreement said Medicare would not pay claims submitted by anyone who employed Minga in a management or administrative role.
The Justice Department said that from 2016 until this year, Minga continued to manage and control pharmacies that sought Medicare payments, and that he made sure those submitting Medicare enrollment or revalidation paperwork would not disclose his ownership interest or managerial role in the pharmacies.
From Oct. 17, 2016, to Aug. 16, 2021, Medicare paid about $16.1 million to the pharmacies in which Minga had an ownership interest or managerial role, the news release said.
Escalona said Medicare may exclude people and companies that it believes do not meet the program’s standards. He said the sentence of Minga “demonstrates that fraudulently evading an exclusion from Medicare is a serious offense with serious criminal penalties.”
The news release did not say why Minga had agreed to the 10-year exclusion from Medicare.