TAMPA (Tribune News Service) — For about a year, Medicare and Tricare, the insurance program for military personnel, paid two local pharmacies more than $50 million, about half of which was given to a marketing firm now under federal criminal investigation, according to court records.
Some of the money was used to purchase a fleet of luxury cars, including a Lamborghini Aventador, a Maserati, a Bentley Continental and a Porsche Panamera.
Frank V. Monte, president of the marketing firm Centurion Holdings, called himself “the Wolf of Wesley Chapel.”
Federal investigators last year seized the vehicles and five pieces of property before filing a civil complaint seeking to have the assets and the contents of a bank account forfeited because of their link to suspected criminal fraud.
Although Monte and Centurion Vice President Kimberly Sue Anderson of Valrico filed their opposition to the forfeiture of the property, the case was put on hold last week at the request of all sides because of a pending criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Monte and his attorney could not be reached for comment. Contacted by phone, Anderson said, “I don’t think I can comment on anything.”
Attorney Bryant R. Camareno, who is representing Anderson in the forfeiture case, said, “She’s definitely upset that the government has gone to the length they have to seize her assets. She denies any culpability, any wrongdoing and feels she’ll be vindicated in court. ... To the extent that the criminal investigation merges with the forfeiture investigation, obviously Ms. Kimberly Sue Anderson ... denies any illegal activity and denies any kickbacks.” Camareno also represents Anderson’s adult children, who he described as “innocent owners” of some of the vehicles the government seized.
Federal investigators declined to discuss the ongoing investigation. But details were spelled out in an affidavit filed in connection with the forfeiture complaint. The allegations include payments to patients and the use of an active-duty Air Force member to recruit other military personnel to obtain prescriptions for compound prescription creams, which sold for upwards of $17,000 for a tube the size of a toothpaste container.
Salespeople, according to the complaint, were paid a percentage of the Tricare payments for the cream, considered an illegal kickback under the law.
In November, U.S. Attorney Lee Bentley coauthored an op-ed in The Tampa Tribune saying the Tricare program is “under siege.”
“Since at least 2013, a group of sophisticated and unscrupulous criminals — masquerading as legitimate ‘health care marketers,’ doctors and pharmacists — have been preying on the program to satisfy their limitless greed,” the op-ed says. “These fraudsters have used social media, such as Facebook, to hawk expensive and worthless ‘compound prescriptions’ to military personnel. These prescriptions are presented by modern-day snake oil salesmen as miracle creams that remove scars, alleviate migraines and eliminate general pain.
“The vast majority of these compound prescription creams — some of which cost in excess of $40,000 — are nothing more than elaborate shams to steal from the Tricare program and military personnel.”
The cover photo on Centurion’s is black, emblazoned with the words: “The Wolf.” It was last updated a year ago. The final comment, posted in November, asks, “wheres the wulfie guy?”
The page reviews are glowing, but with a hint of menace. “Frank is an incredible man with a heart of gold and always thinking about other people,” one says. “He may be the Wolf of Wesley Chapel but he is an incredible man!”
Says another: “Run with the pack, or get eaten like sheep.”
Before entries began in 2014 promoting scar and wound cream prescriptions, the page contains information about BP oil spill claims.
According to the forfeiture affidavit, Centurion employed sales representatives who recruited patients with Tricare and Medicare. The sales representatives were recruited from among Centurion principals’ friends and associates, who attended training sessions conducted by Monte and others.
One of the training sessions featured a video titled “The Wolf of Wesley Chapel,” commissioned by Monte for $30,000, the affidavit says.
Sales representatives sent patients to physicians who completed Centurion-generated prescription forms to choose which compounded medications the patients received, even though in many cases, they had no medical needs for the prescriptions, the affidavit says.
The forms had check boxes for specific creams, including a premium scar deluxe cream which cost Tricare $17,000 a tube and a pain cream that cost $4,500 a tube, with each tube representing a supply for 20 to 30 days.
The prescription forms were then faxed to two pharmacies that had hired Centurion to market for them.
The affidavit says Centurion had a “kickback relationship” with a doctor who billed Tricare for more than $9 million worth of creams using Centurion’s forms. When doctors who weren’t getting kickbacks wrote prescriptions for a limited number of refills, Centurion employees would add unlimited or additional refills without the doctors’ consent, the affidavit says.
When an employee began asking questions, Monte and Anderson told the employee that if he or she ever threatened the company again, they would kill the employee and his or her family, according to the affidavit, which says the employee told this to the FBI in December 2014.
The affidavit describes a member of the Air Force who worked as a Centuron sales representative. Air Force investigators identified seven active-duty Air Force members all assigned to the same unit at MacDill Air Force Base who had claims for the creams by the two pharmacies for more than $225,000. The Air Force sales representative also had more than $101,000 worth of cream claims for himself and family members over a three-month period. Most of those prescriptions were written by the physician described as having the “kickback relationship” with Centurion.
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