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Former doctor sentenced for role in conspiracy, fraud

HATTIESBURG (AP) — A former oral surgeon in Mississippi has been sentenced to a year and a day in prison for participating in a pharmacy scheme prosecutors say bilked more than $400 million from insurers.
Brantley Nichols, 44, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud in July 2018. He faced up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
U.S. District Senior Judge Keith Starrett sentenced Nichols in federal court in Hattiesburg on Tuesday. In addition to the jail time, Starrett ordered Nichols to pay nearly $700,000 in restitution and a $75,000 fine, The Hattiesburg American reported.
“Your honor, I take full responsibility for my actions,” Nichols said during the hearing.
Prosecutors say Nichols was prescribing high-dollar creams handmade by a Hattiesburg pharmacy without examining patients and pre-signing prescription forms from October 2014 to January 2017 in a scheme to defraud TRICARE and other health benefits providers.
Starrett said he gave Nichols a lighter sentence because Nichols showed he has community and family support, has been doing volunteer work and has not committed any other crimes.
But it was still too serious of a crime to not have any time behind bars, Starrett said, adding there needs to be a deterrent for future young professionals to avoid committing the same type of crimes. “There has to be a message sent, that there are serious consequences.”
Starrett also gave Nichols some words of encouragement.
“Your life is not over,” he said. “You will need to rebuild trust, but you can overcome a lot of hurdles.”
In addition, nurse practitioner Gregory Parker, 60, of Laurel, was sentenced to 18 months in prison Tuesday for his role in the scheme and was ordered to pay more than $500,000 in restitution.
The government said Parker had completed an addiction rehabilitation program and was involved with community service and helping others with addiction. Sara Porter, an attorney for the government, said Parker was a different person now.
Parker apologized to the court and to the many victims who were affected by the fraud and talked about his addiction and the work he has done since his recovery.
Starrett praised Parker’s efforts to bounce back from his addiction and encouraged him to continue the path he was on.
“I commend you for that,” the judge told Parker.