Marketer Sentenced in NextHealth Kickback Case

A pharmacy marketer who worked with NextHealth, a pharmacy and laboratory services company controlled in part by a Preston Hollow man, has been charged with violating the federal Anti-Kickback Statute, federal officials said Thursday.

On Tuesday, a federal grand jury indicted Vinson Woodlee, 68, owner of Med Left LLC, on one count of conspiracy to pay and receive healthcare kickbacks and three counts of soliciting and receiving healthcare kickbacks.

Woodlee was a marketer for NextHealth, which is controlled by Andrew Hillman, who lives in Preston Hollow, and Semyon Narosov.

Hillman was sentenced Dec. 19 to 66 months in federal prison for his role in two healthcare fraud schemes, Forest Park Medical Center and NextHealth, and was ordered to pay $3 million in restitution.

Narasov was sentenced in June to 76 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Jack Zouhary. In 2018, he pleaded guilty to money laundering and paying and receiving kickbacks and bribes in connection to his role in the Forest Park Medical Center and NextHealth cases.

According to the indictment, NextHealth allegedly sought the industry’s most profitable prescriptions and then paid (illegally) doctors to prescribe them through NextHealth pharmacies. Woodlee and other marketers allegedly received kickbacks in exchange for convincing doctors to participate. Woodlee allegedly demanded about 50% of the profits from each prescription and refill written by the doctors he brought into the scheme, and in turn funneled that money to prescribing physicians and sub-marketers, as well as himself.

“From 2012 to 2018, Mr. Woodlee allegedly collected more than $60 million in kickbacks. Of the $60 million, he passed $16.8 million on to ‘his’ physicians and $30.6 million on to sub-marketers who likely passed a portion along to ‘their’ physicians,” a statement from Northern District of Texas First Assistant U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah said.

All told, NextHealth fraudulently billed insurers more than $700 million during that time, Shah said.

Since NextHealth billed federal insurers like Medicare, those involved in the scheme were subject to the federal laws prohibiting reward referrals and payments. Shah said that Woodlee knew this, and took steps to conceal his actions.

The government alleged that he attempted to exploit the Anti-Kickback Statute’s exception that allows for paying W2 wages to legitimate employees by disguising his kickbacks as his salary and bonuses throughout 2013 and 2014.

Later, the prosecutors said, he agreed to let NextHealth disguise the payments as wages to three of his family members, “Persons A, B, and C, who NextHealth ‘hired’ as account executives in December 2014.”

In spring 2016, Woodlee signed a new contract with the company that increased his commission on non-federal insurance prescriptions from 50% to 58%, which served to mask the compensation he was getting for the illegal federal insurance prescriptions, the government alleges.

If convicted, Woodlee could face up to 35 years in prison.

To read more about the Forest Park Medical Center and NextHealth cases, click here.

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at bethany.erickson@peoplenewspapers.com.

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