Federal courthouse
Federal courthouse in downtown San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

A former Marine involved in a scheme to defraud the military health program TRICARE out of more than $65 million, primarily through recruiting local Marines to seek unneeded medications, pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court.

Bradley White of Oakley, 31, is one of eight defendants charged in a fraud scheme that includes a pair of Tennessee doctors, pharmacy owners, and San Diego-area Marines who prosecutors say ordered prescriptions for patients who did not need the medications, then billed TRICARE “at exorbitant prices.”

White’s role was to recruit Marines to take part, most of whom were from the San Diego area, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

His recruits would seek compounded medications — a mix of specialty meds intended to meet a patient’s specific medical needs — paid by TRICARE. Prescriptions for those recruits were written by doctors Carl Lindblad and Suzy Vergot, who worked at the Choice MD clinic in Tennessee. Federal prosecutors say the doctors never examined the patients in person before writing them prescriptions.

Lindblad and Vergot’s prescriptions were then sent to pharmacies cooperating with the scheme. TRICARE reimbursed the pharmacies, which then distributed kickback payments to the scheme’s recruiters.

Prosecutors say Lindblad and Vergot wrote 4,442 prescriptions in a six-month span, which led to TRICARE being billed for $65,679,512.

White was paid more than $195,000 for his role, which led to more than $7.6 million of the total money billed to TRICARE, prosecutors said.

Along with White, Lindblad and Vergot have also pleaded guilty, as well as Candace Craven, a nurse practitioner at Choice MD, CFK Inc., the corporate owner of one of the pharmacies involved, and Josh Morgan, another former Marine from San Diego who recruited patients.

Choice MD’s owners, Jimmy and Ashley Collins, are the last defendants awaiting trial.

White is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 18 in a San Diego federal courtroom.

— City News Service

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.