A Hattiesburg businessman pleaded guilty Thursday to playing a role in a healthcare fraud operation that cost Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE hundreds of millions of dollars.
According to court filings, Wade Ashley Walters pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He now faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.
In September 2019, Walters was indicted on 37 counts including conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud, soliciting and receiving monetary kickbacks, as well as possessing and selling controlled substances.
He previously pleaded not guilty to all charges.
According to the indictment, Walters, a co-owner of compounding pharmacies and pharmaceutical marketing companies, took part in schemes that resulted in more than $500 million in fraudulent medical billing to public and private healthcare insurance providers.
Court documents listed Walters as one of the “key” figures at the center of the investigation.
Federal court filings said Walters and others were the “central architects of one of the comprehensive health care fraud, kickback, and money laundering schemes that threatened the solvency of some health care benefit programs and operated between Jan. 2012 and Dec. 2015.”
Federal investigators said the pharmacies and marketing companies Walters had ownership in were used in a conspiracy to “commit health care fraud, mail fraud and wire fraud associated with the marketing and sale of compounded medications.”
The pharmacies allegedly used marketers to execute an illegal kickback scheme to compensate doctors involved in the operation. To hide the kickbacks, the pharmacies participated in fraudulent billing practices to cover their tracks.