A Texas physician and her accomplice pleaded guilty to falsely billing Medicare more than $30 million for illegally prescribed narcotics and medically unnecessary wheelchairs, Houston's U.S. attorney announced Wednesday. Callie Hall Herpin, M.D., 34, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of Medicare fraud conspiracy and one count of illegally distributing controlled substances.
U.S. Attorney Michael Shelby described Herpin as the central figure in a conspiracy to illegally distribute more than 1.7 million hydrocodone tablets and 2,500 gallons of codeine cough syrup. Her co-defendant, Etta Mae Williams, pleaded guilty to Tuesday to both conspiracies as well as one count of money laundering.
In her criminal plea, Herpin said she and Williams sold more than 900 certificates of medical necessity, prescriptions for motorized wheelchairs and other medical equipment to marketers for $200 each without examining patients for medical need or eligibility. Herpin and Williams also admitted selling more than 17,000 prescriptions for controlled substances for cash, confessing there were no reasons of medical necessity for the prescriptions.
Pharmacists were charged in the investigation with dispensing the hydrocodone tablets.
Herpin and Williams said they received a total of more than $1.7 million for their roles in the conspiracy and have agreed to forfeit nearly $1.9 million. Each faces five years in prison and fines of $250,000 on the conspiracy counts and Williams faces another 20 years and $500,000 in fines for the money-laundering charge.
The criminal pleas are part of ongoing investigations into fraud involving billing for motorized wheelchairs and prescription drugs. They are being conducted by HHS' inspector general, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. attorney in Houston.