Jury Finds Doctor Guilty in $10 Million TRICARE Scheme

June 2022 Justice ; An Alexander doctor has been convicted for his involvement in a multi-million-dollar kickback conspiracy at the conclusion of a week-long trial. A federal jury found Joe David “Jay” May, 41, guilty on all 22 counts for which he was indicted.

      The jury returned their verdict Thursday evening after deliberating for about three hours. United States District Judge Kristine Baker presided over the trial, and Judge Baker will sentence May at a later date. 

      “Dr. May used his signature as a rubber stamp to help his friends rake in millions of dollars in kickbacks from fraudulent prescriptions,” said Jonathan D. Ross, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. “His crimes are a reprehensible abuse of his Hippocratic oath and his medical license. Our office and our federal law enforcement partners at the FBI and Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) are resolved to continue to bring to justice all other health care professionals who defraud our nation’s healthcare systems.”

      A grand jury returned an indictment against May in January 2020. The indictment alleged that May signed off on illegitimate prescriptions for pain cream in order to trigger a payout from TRICARE, the nation’s insurance for veterans.  A pharmacy promoter paid recruiters to find TRICARE beneficiaries, regardless of whether they needed the drugs, and then paid others to get medical professionals, including Jay May, to rubber stamp prescriptions for TRICARE beneficiaries.

      TRICARE paid over $12 million for compounded drugs prescribed through this scheme. Evidence at trial indicated that May wrote 226 prescriptions over the course of ten months, for which TRICARE paid $4.63 million. All but one of those prescriptions were supplied by drug sales representatives, Glenn Hudson and Derek Clifton, both of whom have pleaded guilty in the scheme, and directed to prescribers, May and a nurse practitioner named Donna Crowder, who has also pleaded guilty. May accepted cash bribes totaling nearly $15,000 and signed off on the prescriptions without consulting patients and without determining whether or not the prescription was needed.

      One recruiter hosted a meeting at Fisher Armory in North Little Rock. At that meeting, he signed people up for the drugs and offered to pay them $1,000. Thirteen of those patients were routed to Dr. May, who signed each prescription, and this group alone cost TRICARE $370,000. The conspirators learned that reimbursements from TRICARE might fall in May 2015, so April was the last opportunity to profit from the program. In the last ten days of April 2015, May signed 59 prescriptions, for which TRICARE paid $1.4M. During a single 9-week period at the height of the scheme, May deposited $9,925 cash; an FBI forensic accountant testified this was more cash than he deposited in 2014 and 2016 combined.

      “TRICARE is dedicated to serving our veterans, military members, and their families,” said FBI Little Rock Special Agent in Charge James Dawson. “Dr. May displayed a lack of integrity by defrauding millions from our nation’s military insurer and lying to our Agents in an effort to conceal his crimes. The FBI is committed to working alongside our partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office to protect our service members and their loved ones from corrupt medical professionals like Dr. May.”

      “Dr. May engaged in a kickback scheme that undermined federal health care programs,” said Special Agent in Charge Miranda L. Bennett of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. “This verdict is a testament to strong law enforcement partnerships committed to holding physicians accountable for providing quality care to beneficiaries of these programs,” said HHS-OIG Special Agent in Charge Miranda Bennett.

      The statutory penalties for May’s convictions are: wire fraud, mail fraud, and falsifying records, not more than 20 years imprisonment; violation of the anti-kickback statute, not more than 10 years imprisonment; and conspiracy and making false statements, not more than five years imprisonment. In addition to any sentence imposed, May will also serve an added four years for convictions on two counts of aggravated identity theft. All offenses of conviction include a potential penalty of not more than a $250,000 fine and not more than three years of supervised release.

      The investigation was conducted by the FBI and HHS-OIG. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Alexander Morgan and Stephanie Mazzanti.    

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