Once-convicted Utah pharmacist faces new health care fraud charges
Health

Once-convicted Utah pharmacist faces new health care fraud charges

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah pharmacist convicted of health care fraud more than a dozen years ago faces new federal criminal and civil charges related to another alleged scheme to defraud Medicare and Medicaid.

A federal grand jury returned a five-count indictment against James Vaughn Ammon, 56, with four counts of health care fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. Ammon, also known as James Vaughn Soto, ran Eco Apothecary and Eco Pharmacy in South Jordan from early 2016 to February 2020.

Ammon allegedly submitted false claims to Medicare and Medicaid to benefit himself, including filing claims for drugs that were not dispensed to patients, for larger quantities of drugs than were actually dispensed, and for dispensing drugs without a valid prescription from a physician. He also allegedly fabricated and forged Utah pharmacy licensing documents.

Many of the undelivered drugs were life-saving medications of elderly patients, according to prosecutors. A recent organ transplant recipient did not receive scheduled anti-rejection medication. The patient was then unable to fill the prescription at another pharmacy because Medicare showed that it had paid for the medications, prosecutors say.

In 2007, Ammon was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison for one count of health care fraud and two counts of making false claims when he owned Wee Care Pharmacy in Davis County. He was also placed on three years probation and ordered to pay $88,000 in restitution and $50,000 for investigative expenses.

In the new case, Ammon faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of health care fraud. Aggravated identity theft carries a two-year mandatory minimum sentence.

Federal authorities also filed a civil complaint against Eco Pharmacy, Eco Apothecary and Ammon, alleging they violated the Controlled Substances Act and the False Claims Act by filling and billing Medicare for prescriptions after the pharmacy lost its state-issued license.

According to the civil complaint, Eco Apothecary caused Medicare Part D sponsors to pay at least $1.6 million for prescriptions they dispensed. During the same time, Eco Pharmacy caused Medicare to pay at least $1.8 million for prescriptions they dispensed.

The civil complaint alleges Eco Apothecary and Ammon caused Medicare and Medicaid plan sponsors to pay at least $274,129 and Medicaid at least $11,013 for at least 2,576 prescriptions after it was no longer licensed by the to operate a pharmacy and dispense medication.

The civil complaint seeks to impose a penalty of $64,820 for each prescription filled in violation of the controlled substance law and $15,050 for each violation of the law’s record-keeping provisions.

Prosecutors also want an order stopping Ammon and the pharmacies from distributing, dispensing or processing with intent to distribute any drugs.

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