HATTIESBURG, Mississippi — A federal judge has sentenced a Mississippi doctor to four years in prison for his role in a health care fraud scheme.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Tuesday that U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett handed down the sentence against Dr. Shahjahan Sultan, 38, of Madison, and ordered him to pay restitution of $4.1 million to Express Scripts, $582,280 to CVS Caremark and $115,611 to Catamaran.
A $2.3 million money judgment also was imposed against Sultan, who formerly practiced in Vicksburg. According to Sultan’s attorney, former state Supreme Court Justice Chuck McRae, at least $4 million has already been repaid.
Sultan at one time occupied office space in the Ritchey Building on Government Street in downtown Ocean Springs. His dealings with the former The Gardens Pharmacy prompted FBI agents to raid Lovelace Drugs last May searching for documents related to Sultan. Lovelace, now closed, had previously operated as The Gardens.
News outlets reported that Sultan pleaded guilty in November to conspiracy to commit health care fraud after he and co-conspirators were accused in a 15-count indictment of prescribing millions of dollars of unnecessary compound pain creams and weight-loss pills to patients for reimbursement from May 2014 to January 2015. The court held Sultan responsible for $8 million in intended losses to health care providers.
Sultan apologized during the sentencing hearing.
“I was an idiot, pardon my harsh language,” he said. “This has been a monkey on my back. I want this all to go away, but it never goes away.”
Sultan also warned other young doctors not to fall for something that sounds too good to be true.
“I lost just about everything,” he said. “But I’m not the victim here. Thinking that you’re part of the problem — it’s a hard pill to swallow.”
Prosecutors said Sultan entered into a contract with a Jackson County pharmacy in May 2014 to prescribe individuals expensive compound medications. In return, the pharmacy would pay Sultan 35% of the reimbursements it received after billing health care providers for the prescriptions Sultan wrote, according to the authorities.
Sultan employed others to identify people in places like Jones County whose insurance covered the medications. The doctor met with those people over video-chat sessions but did not perform thorough examinations or determine the medical necessity of the compound medications he prescribed. Prosecutors said Sultan was aware that some added ingredients to the medications he prescribed were not effective and were introduced for the purpose of increasing the reimbursement value. He was also accused of calling in compound medications for people he had not examined.
A Tennessee doctor, Thomas Edward Sturdavant, 56, and two Mississippi registered nurses, Freda Covington, 54, of Hattiesburg, and Fallon Page, 36, of Soso, were indicted with Sultan.
Sturdavant and Covington each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Sturdavant is scheduled to be sentenced on June 22, while Covington’s sentence is set for June 24. Page pleaded guilty to mail fraud and sentencing is set for July 7.
The Mississippi Press’ Warren Kulo contributed to this report.