2 North Alabama men sentenced for healthcare fraud, kickback conspiracy cases

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(WHNT) — According to the Department of Justice, two North Alabama men have been sentenced in a series of multi-million-dollar healthcare fraud and kickback conspiracy cases.

A U.S. District Court Judge sentenced 42-year-old Brian Bowman, of Gadsden, to 96 months in prison, and 46-year-old Jason Akin, of Florence, to 42 months in prison.

In December 2021, Bowman pleaded guilty to healthcare fraud conspiracy. The charges stem from his work at Dr. Mark Murphy’s medical practice, North Alabama Pain Services.

Akin pleaded guilty to healthcare fraud concerning the fraud at Watson Rx Solutions in May 2023.

“These crimes cost taxpayer-funded insurance programs millions of dollars and exploited vulnerable patients in north Alabama,” said U.S. Attorney Prim Escalona. “The sentences send a vital message: health care fraud and kickbacks are serious crimes and will not be tolerated. Thank you to our prosecutors and law enforcement partners for their hard work and dedication on this case.”

According to Bowman’s plea agreement, he marketed QBR’s electro-diagnostic testing to several medical providers, including Murphy. He was paid a kickback for each test that was ordered. Bowman received nearly a million dollars in kickbacks from just Murphy’s orders.

Bowman also marketed high-reimbursing specialty prescription drugs to the providers – including the Murphy’s – and received payments for any prescriptions he generated.

Akin’s plea states that he was part owner and worked as a pharmacy technician who helped run sales at Watson Rx. He paid Bowman and his sales group, which included James Ray and John Robson, to generate the specialty drug prescriptions that would be billed to and paid by health insurance plans.

Among the people he paid were urine collectors employed by Bowman’s lab company, and also those who market Watson Rx prescriptions.

The DOJ says dozens of defendants have been convicted in related healthcare fraud cases.

Bowman, Ray and Robson marketed unnecessary items like topical creams for specialty pharmacies, including Watson Rx Solutions. They were paid commissions to get the prescriptions to be issued.

According to a plea agreement, marketers received blank, pre-signed prescriptions from doctors and then completed them to make sure insurance would pay for the prescriptions, regardless of whether or not they were medically necessary.

Another service Bowman, Ray and Robson marketed was the electro-diagnostic testing provided by QBR, specifically nerve conduction testing. The men received per-patient kickbacks from that company for inducing medical providers to order tests.

The department said those providers then received payments from QBR, too. However, the payments were disguised as hourly payments for the ordering physician and staff’s time. In reality, they were per-patient kickbacks.

QBR’s CEO 54-year-old John Hornbuckle, of Huntsville, previously pleaded guilty to health care fraud and kickback conspiracy offenses for arranging the fraud. Dr. Eric Beck, 65, of Huntsville, pleaded guilty to healthcare fraud conspiracy for the role he played in the fraud as well.

In other cases, both Dr. Murphy and his wife Jennifer Murphy were convicted of of drug distribution, fraud, and kickback crimes. According to documents presented at trial, took kickbacks totaling more than $1 million from OBR.

The DOJ said that the Murphys were each sentenced to twenty years in prison. Hornbuckle was sentenced to eighty months. Ray and Robson are still awaiting sentencing.

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