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Couple ordered to pay $65 million over Tricare fraud case

A pile of money. (Government Accountability Office)
January 31, 2024

Jimmy Collins, 59, and his wife Ashley Collins, 37, pled guilty to charges they utilized Physicians at Choice MD, a medical clinic they owned, to defraud the Tricare program of millions of dollars through a reimbursement scam. 

In a press release issued by the United States Attorney’s Office, prosecutors say the couple admitted they recruited servicemembers into the scheme by providing kickbacks to those who agreed to allow prescriptions to be written in their names.

The prescriptions were then sent to The Medicine Shoppe, a small pharmacy in Utah, for filling. While the medications weren’t dispensed, the pharmacy was reimbursed by Tricare for the prescriptions. Over $65,679,512 worth of reimbursements were paid between December 2014 and May 2015. Some of the prescriptions were valued at between $10,000 to $20,000 alone. 

The Medicine Shoppe then provided the Collinses with a percentage of the reimbursement, who, in turn, paid recruiters. In total, the Collinses are estimated to have received approximately $45 million in fraudulent money. In addition to being ordered to restitution of all money received, Jimmy Collins was sentenced to a 10-year prison term, while Ashley Collins was remanded to 18 months of home confinement. 

Numerous goods were also seized, including an 82-foot yacht, multiple luxury vehicles, investment annuities, gold and silver bars, tractor-trailer trucks, and three pieces of real estate located in Tennessee. 

According to ABC News, U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman commended and thanked the prosecuting and investigation team, stating, “The scheme alleged in this case resulted in massive losses to a taxpayer-funded healthcare program meant to help members and veterans of our armed forces. The days of yachts and luxury cars are gone. With these guilty pleas, we are holding these defendants accountable for their crimes.”  

This conviction follows the 2018 conviction of Carl Lindblad, 53, and Susan Vergot, 31, doctors who were employed by Choice MD. Lindblad and Vergot authorized 4,442 fraudulent prescriptions over the timeframe of the scam. 

According to a news release by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark W. Pletcher, Vergot was sentenced to 24 months in custody, while Lindblad was sentenced to 28 months in custody. Each was ordered to pay a $15,000 fine. CFK Inc., who owned the pharmacy at the time, pleaded guilty to a single count of submitting false claims and was ordered to reimburse Tricare $622,000 and pay a $25,000 fine. Charges against other members of the scheme, including those who recruited Tricare beneficiaries, are being pursued.