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Tampa Bay Residents Plead Guilty To Healthcare Kickback Conspiracy

Fraud is rampant in Florida
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Two Tampa Bay residents have pleaded guilty to paying healthcare kickbacks in a scheme that saw their company help collect over $4 million from one insurance company.

Frank Monte, 40, of Valrico, and Kimberly Anderson, 52, of New Port Richey, ran a marketing company named Centurion Compounding, Inc.

According to information from the Internal Revenue Service, the two entered into an agreement with the owners of Pinellas-based pharmacy, Lifecare.  Centurion used its sales representatives to market compounded medicines, particularly creams for pain and scars.

Their targets, according to the IRS, included people with healthcare insurance, especially TRICARE, which is a military health insurer.

Centurion worked with Lifecare and Dr. Anthony Baldizzi, who agreed to write custom prescriptions for the pain and scar creams, which cost anywhere from $9,000 to $21,000 for a one-month supply, in exchange for a percentage.

According to an IRS press release, Lifecare made a profit of around $4 million after Baldizzi wrote prescriptions and the conspirators "caused the submission of claims for these creams to TRICARE, which resulted in TRICARE paying LifeCare more than $4.4 milllion."

Lifecare and Centurion each took 45% of the profit, while Baldizzi got 10% and a new BMW M3. 

The owners of Lifecare, Carlos Mazariegos and Benjamin Nundy, as well as Baldizzi, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud. They are scheduled to be sentenced late this year. 

According to IRS spokesman Ryan Thompson, Monte and Anderson "forfeited about $8,000 in cash, a 2009 Bentley, a 2012 Lamborghini, a 2012 motor home, a Mercedes, a Maserati, a Ford GT, a Fisker Karma and some property."

The two each face up to five years in federal prison.

The IRS said the guilty pleas came after a more than five year multi-agency investigation, and because of the investigation, "TRICARE claims of more than $58 milllion have been repaid or reversed and the conspirators have also repaid TRICARE and additional $6 million."  

Thompson said much of the fraud the IRS investigates in Florida includes phishing schemes, Ponzi schemes and identity theft.

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Susan Giles Wantuck is our midday news host, and a producer and reporter for WUSF Public Media who focuses her storytelling on arts, culture and history.