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Tennessee doctor, Mississippi nurse sentenced for fraud

(AP) — A Tennessee doctor and a Mississippi nurse were sentenced to prison for their role in a health care fraud scheme.
Freda Covington, of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, was sentenced to 18 months in prison Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release. Two days earlier, the judge had sentenced Dr. Thomas Edward Sturdavant of Cordova, Tennessee, to 24 months in prison, and had ordered him to pay over $1.6 million in restitution and a $160,000 money judgment.
Authorities said Sturdavant worked with Dr. Shahjahan Sultan, a Mississippi doctor.
Sultan had 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 authorities.
That September, authorities said Sultan offered to pay Sturdavant $900,000 to conduct virtual sessions with patients, and prescribe more expensive drugs that were medically ineffective. According to the news release, Sturdavant, 56, signed more than 50 prescriptions for people he did not examine.
Covington, a nurse, assisted the two doctors by helping to find people in Mississippi that had insurance to cover the medications, and falsified assessments for patients that did not need the drugs, the news release said.
“Good people do bad things,” Starrett told her during the sentencing. “All of us do. This is a significant aberration from your life.”
Covington, 55, offered a tearful apology in the court room, saying she was “a new person,” and a “great nurse,” the Hattiesburg American reported.
Sultan, 38, of Madison, Mississippi, was handed a four-year prison sentence by Starrett last week.
Fallon Page, another nurse, pleaded guilty to mail fraud for her involvement in shipping the drugs to patients last year. Her sentencing date is scheduled for July 7.