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Pharmacy owner stole $5 million from Medicare/Medicaid

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Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 07:33 PM

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TAMPA -

More than 10 years ago, after he was convicted of filing bogus Medicaid claims from his Palm Harbor pharmacy, Samuel Wahba was told he couldn't participate in such federal programs for 15 years.

Instead, Wahba changed the name of his business and got other people to submit bogus claims for him, stealing more than $5 million, according to an agreement he reached with the U.S. Attorney's Office and filed last week.

Friday, Wahba, 46, pleaded guilty to health care fraud, making false statements to a federal agency, filing false claims with federal health care programs and failing to disclose his exclusion from participating in such programs.

Though Wahba has not been sentenced, the law calls for a maximum five-year prison sentence, followed by three years of probation. He also could face fines of more than $10 million because federal law calls for a fine of $250,000 or twice the amount lost by the government, whichever is greater.

Wahba's odyssey through the criminal justice system began on Aug. 10, 2001, when he was convicted in Pinellas County of Medicaid provider fraud, two counts of grand theft and one count of violating the state's racketeering law. He perpetrated the fraud from the Clover Pharmacy, at 3325 Tampa Road in Palm Harbor.

He was informed the following year that he could not participate in any program involving Medicare or Medicaid reimbursements for 15 years, according to court documents. He also was required to submit an application before receiving further reimbursements from the federal health programs.

Wahba didn't wait. Instead, he changed the name of his business to St. George Pharmacy and had three other people pretend they were the owners, according to federal prosecutors. At least two of those people knew he was barred from receiving reimbursements, according to the plea agreement, which doesn't name Wahba's associates.

St. George Pharmacy submitted thousands of claims for reimbursement to Medicaid, Medicare and Tricare, which serves current and former military members and their families, according to the plea agreement. The total, from January 2003 to August 2012, came to $5.2 million.


As part of his plea agreement, Wahba agreed to be permanently excluded from participating in federal health programs involving claims reimbursements.

sthompson@tampatrib.com

(727) 215-7604

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