The former co-owner of a now-shuttered San Marino pharmacy at the center of an $18 million health-care fraud scheme pleaded guilty Friday to a federal charge.Phic K. Lim, 47, of Pasadena entered his plea to a criminal count of illegally structuring currency transactions in order to evade a federal reporting obligation for amounts over $10,000, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The count carries a maximum punishment of five years in federal prison. But according to Lim is expected to receive no more than a year behind bars when sentenced Feb. 8 by U.S. District Judge S. James Otero.
Lim, former co-owner of the Huntington Pharmacy, was the final defendant to be convicted in a complex scheme that involved more than a dozen others.
The operation involved so-called “prescription harvesting,” in which a sham Glendale medical clinic and various San Gabriel Valley pharmacies re- billed the government repeatedly for expensive anti-psychotic medications.
Between Sept. 2009 and Oct. 27, 2011 — when authorities shut down the scheme — Medi-Cal and Medicare were billed for more than $18 million and the health programs paid out over $9 million, based on more than 14,000 fraudulent claims, prosecutors said.
A two-year investigation — dubbed Operation Psyched Out — was the first one in the nation involving an organized scheme to defraud federal health care programs through false claims for such anti-psychotic medications as Abilify, Seroquel and Zyprexa, according to the government.
The prescriptions were issued by ex-physician Kenneth Johnson, who pre- signed thousands of blank forms. He was sentenced this week to nine years in prison.
After the prescriptions were filled, the drugs were returned to the clinic, “patients” — many recruited from Skid Row — were given nominal payments of around $100, and the medications were diverted into the black market, where they were sold to other pharmacies and re-billed to health care programs as though dispensed for the first time.
Huntington Pharmacy was alleged to be the primary offender, reportedly responsible for $7.3 million in actual losses to Medicare and Medi-Cal programs.
— City News Service
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