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Mississippi physician is sentenced in insurance fraud case

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi physician was sentenced Thursday to 3½ years in federal prison for his part in an insurance fraud case.

Dr. Albert Diaz, 78, who lives Ocean Springs and practiced medicine in Biloxi, told prosecutors during his sentencing hearing in Hattiesburg: “You have not given me justice.”

A jury found Diaz guilty March 2, in what prosecutors say was a scheme to defraud insurers by prescribing expensive and unneeded medicines. Diaz acknowledged that he wrote prescriptions without seeing patients, but denied wrongdoing.

Two co-conspirators, Jay Schaar of Biloxi and Jason May of Lamar County, pleaded guilty in the case and are free on bond as they await sentencing.

Schaar, a pharmaceutical representative, recruited Diaz to write prescriptions for compound drugs that were filled at Advantage Pharmacy in Hattiesburg, co-owned by May.

May and Schaar have admitted that drugs were compounded based on profit potential, not need. Diaz prescribed the drugs for patients he had not seen. Then, after an investigation started, he back-dated records to make it appear he had examined some patients.

Tricare, the military health insurance program, paid Advantage almost $2.4 million for the fraudulent prescriptions.

Prosecutors said the conspiracy ran from about October 2014 until January 2017.

U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett, who sentenced Diaz, received more than 100 letters requesting leniency and attesting to the doctor’s good works. Starrett told Diaz that despite his “very serious crimes,” letters sent on his behalf indicated his “reputation and respect are still intact.”

Diaz’s wife, Kay, served him with divorce papers at the Stone County jail in late May, around the time of their 28th wedding anniversary, court records show. She cited desertion as the grounds.