A Mequon man who owned four Milwaukee-area pharmacies has been sentenced to serve 18 months in prison and pay $1 million in restitution following his participation in a health care kickback scheme.
Alexander Shister was also ordered to pay a $40,000 fine for his role in the scheme, according to a press release from the United States Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Wisconsin.
An indictment in the case states Shister owned and operated Medpoint Pharmacy on West Silver Spring Road, Omnicare Pharmacy on West North Avenue, Greenfield Pharmacy on South 27th Street (in the city of Greenfield) and Clinica Latina Pharmacy on South Cesar E. Chavez Drive.
Beginning in September 2016, Shister agreed to pay money to his co-defendant, David Guerrero, in exchange for Guerrero arranging to have prescriptions for compounded pain cream medications sent and filled to one of the four aforementioned pharmacies, according to the indictment.
It is illegal for anyone to offer, pay, solicit or receive money in exchange for referring Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries to providers that participate in the program, or to arrange for certain services that may be paid for in part or whole by Medicare of Medicaid. Such payments are known as “kickbacks.”
Shister paid Guerrero $100 for each patient referral, according to the press release. Guerrero was not a licensed medical provider, but he worked at two Milwaukee-area clinics and used his access at the clinics to order the pain creams from Shister’s pharmacies, often without the patients’ knowledge or consent.
As a result of the scheme, Medicare and Medicaid paid Shister’s pharmacies about $1 million for medically unnecessary pain creams, including creams not even received by patients. Shister paid Guerrero over $100,000 in kickbacks during the scheme.
Guerrero was previously sentenced to serve 32 months in prison for his role in the kickback scheme with Shister, as well as a second kickback scheme involving a local medical laboratory company.
“Pharmacies and other medical providers simply cannot pay kickbacks in exchange for patient referrals,” said U.S. Attorney Gregory Haanstad. “As this case demonstrates, kickbacks result in Medicare and Medicaid paying for unnecessary services, rather than services that doctors determine patients actually need or that patients actually want.”