A nurse at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma on Tuesday pleaded guilty to a criminal health care fraud scheme, in which she accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks for referring patients to pharmacies offering compounded drugs.
Maj. Romeatrius Moss, 39, admitted to giving military service members pre-printed prescription pads and prompting them to ask their doctors for specific compounded drugs, the Justice Department said in a Wednesday release. Moss, who was employed in Vance’s medical unit at the time of the crimes, admitted she then sent the prescriptions, or caused the prescriptions to be sent, to specific pharmacies, and was paid a kickback of a percentage of the gross reimbursement the pharmacies received from Tricare for filling the prescriptions, the release said.
Compounded drugs are created by combining, mixing or altering ingredients from two or more drugs to create a medication tailored to an individual patient’s needs, according to the Food and Drug Administration. They can serve an important need for patients, the FDA said, for example, someone who is allergic to a certain dye and needs a medication made without it, or an elderly patient who cannot swallow a tablet and needs a medicine in a liquid dosage form.
But compounded drugs are not FDA-approved, meaning the agency does not verify their safety or effectiveness.
Moss faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, as well as up to three years of supervised release. Under her plea agreement, she will pay $622,459 — the total amount of the kickbacks she received in the referral scheme — in restitution to Tricare. She also agreed to criminal forfeiture of her residence near the base in Enid, Oklahoma, a 2016 Porsche Cayenne, and a 2000 Fleetwood Pace Arrow recreational vehicle.
Soliciting and receiving kickbacks in return for referring Tricare-covered patients to compounding pharmacies is a crime because it can result in higher costs or infringe upon patients’ choice, Justice said.
The investigation was conducted by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations and the FBI’s Oklahoma City division. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Maxfield Green, and Moss pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Patrick Wyrick.
Stephen Losey covers leadership and personnel issues as the senior reporter for Air Force Times. He comes from an Air Force family, and his investigative reports have won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover Air Force operations against the Islamic State.