San Diego/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on July 30, 2023
Tennessee Scammer Couple Behind $65 Million Military Healthcare Fraud Plead Guilty in San Diego CaseRendering / 82' Yacht & Aston Martin

Jimmy and Ashley Collins, a couple from Birchwood, Tennessee, have been found guilty in federal court after admitting to their involvement in a healthcare fraud scheme that took over $65 million from TRICARE – the healthcare program responsible for covering United States service members, according to the United States Attorney's Office in the Southern District of California. TRICARE was fraudulently billed through a complex network that took advantage of Marines and other personnel in need of medical attention, but instead exploited them for personal gain.

Back in 2019, the Collins couple, owners of Choice MD in Tennessee, argued that they were unwittingly involved in this fraudulent scheme, with each claiming it was the other's idea as reported by The Tennessean. However, in 2020, three former US service members pleaded guilty, acknowledging their roles in the multi-million-dollar fraud, which led the Collins couple to face further charges according to the Department of Defense.

The illegal scheme involved recruiting TRICARE beneficiaries, with the perpetrators promising monthly payments for participation in an allegedly bogus "medical evaluation" according to the Department of Defense document. In reality, no such study took place; instead, the fraud revolved around prescribing extremely expensive and mostly unnecessary compounded medications, costing the TRICARE program an average of more than $14,500 per medication per month.

Once a recruiter convinced a beneficiary to sign up for these medications, their information was sent to Choice MD, co-owned and operated by Jimmy and Ashley Collins. The clinic's doctors and medical professionals, including Dr. Susan Vergot, Dr. Carl Lindblad, and Candace Craven, wrote prescriptions for these beneficiaries without an in-person medical review or examination as reported by the United States Attorney’s Office. These prescriptions were then filled by the Medicine Shoppe, a pharmacy in Bountiful, Utah, which received massive reimbursements from TRICARE.

It is important to note that several individuals involved in the conspiracy have already entered guilty pleas, including doctors and medical professionals at Choice MD, the corporate owner of the pharmacy that filled the prescriptions, and some patient recruiters according to the United States Attorney’s Office. The Collinses are among the last to plead guilty in this case.

The repercussions for the defendants in this case are severe, with significant property and luxury items, such as an 82-foot yacht and numerous high-end vehicles, including two Aston Martins, having been seized by the United States as reported by The Chattanoogan. Prosecutors are seeking to sell these confiscated assets to recover losses from the healthcare fraud.

The successful prosecution of these cases illustrates the determination of the Justice Department and San Diego authorities to protect military dollars and ensure that medical resources are provided to those in need, rather than stolen by fraudsters. U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said, "The days of yachts and luxury cars are gone. With these guilty pleas, we are holding these defendants accountable for their crimes," following the announcement of the Collinses' guilty plea according to the United States Attorney’s Office. This case serves as a stark warning for those considering exploiting the US military healthcare system for their own criminal gain.