A doctor on trial for his alleged role in a $ 18 million pain cream scam testified in his own defense that he had nothing to do with the system used by TRICARE and other health care providers in Mississippi alone raised more than $ 515 million.
Dr. Gregory Auzenne, 49, took the stand on Thursday denying the allegations that he had never signed any of the more than 200 prescriptions he wrote for high-priced pain and scar creams, vitamin supplements and other compound medications, often thousands of cost dollars each.
He said two of the companies the government said were involved in the program were founded for personal reasons. Ozmark Capital Investments allowed him to help family and friends who wanted to borrow money. Pharmacon Solutions was founded to help him with his investments, with funds for the investments being filtered through Ozmark.
Auzenne said through Ozmark he loaned former pharmacist Marco Moran $ 40,000 to open Custom Care Pharmacy, which allegedly bottled Auzennes’ illegal prescriptions.
Moran paid the money back, but no interest was charged. Auzenne said he didn’t know Moran well, but said he and Moran were members of the same brotherhood and had attended some social events at the same time, but never spoke during the events.
When asked why he would lend a virtual stranger $ 40,000, Auzenne replied, “He was known in the black community.”
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Moran, who pleaded guilty to his role in the pain cream program in September 2018, but was not convicted, previously testified that he gave Auzenne a check for $ 127,000 through Pharmacon, which the doctor admits he received , but he denied they were kickbacks for the recipes he wrote.
Auzenne was asked if he had claimed the $ 127,000 for his income taxes, to which he said yes, but Pharmacon was not mentioned in the filing.
Doctor paid taxes on money after being visited by investigators
Sara Porter, the government attorney, cross-examined Thursday asked Auzenne if he had filed an amendment to his tax return to include the $ 127,000. According to the data available, the change was filed by investigators a week after Auzenne’s visit.
When asked, Auzenne said he was surprised to learn that in 2014, 216 prescriptions for the compound pain creams were faxed to Moran’s pharmacy, despite admitting that he wrote around 200 prescriptions for pain relievers to “all the pharmacies in Mississippi”.
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He denied having any financial stake in Custom Care, Rx Remedies, or any of the other pharmacies his prescriptions were faxed to.
However, a search of public records by the Clarion Ledger reveals that Pharmacon and Dewmar International, one of Moran’s companies, share the same address on East Northside Drive in Clinton. Auzenne also gave a second address, which he gave as Memphis, Tennessee, but the address is actually in Meridian.
The doctor has already been examined by the hospital
In a previous statement, Cathy Robinson, then compliance officer for Rush Health Systems, where Auzenne and Clark worked, said she was investigating Auzenne’s prescribing practices when complaints were received from patients and insurers.
Auzenne said he didn’t know about the recipes until Robinson pointed them out to him.
Auzenne and his secretary Tiffany Clark, 46, have been on trial since November 9, indicted on eight counts, including conspiracy to commit telephone and health fraud, conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance (tramadol), payment to Unlicensed doctor making false claims regarding health care and others.
Clark was charged on five of the counts. Auzenne is charged with all eight.
Clark allegedly combed patient records looking for candidates who met the criteria for the pain and scar creams and whose insurance she would easily pay for.
She is also accused of faxing fraudulent prescription forms to Moran. She reportedly received around $ 15,000 for her contributions to the scam.
Clark didn’t testify, but others speaking on her behalf said she was naive and eager to please. They said Clark worked for Rush Health Systems for more than 10 years before she was charged with the crimes.
Defendants are reliable and trustworthy, say witnesses
Others who testified, including Auzenne’s 20-year-old wife, Dr. Jennifer Rodriguez, and nurse Beth Stokes, said the couple are reliable, trustworthy, and never knowingly do anything illegal.
“He was one of the best doctors I’ve worked for,” Stokes said of Auzenne.
And although Stokes said she saw Clark do something that caused some concern, the incident was considered a mistake by Auzenne and nothing more was said about it.
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Stokes said she reported the incident to Auzenne, who got very angry with Clark. He had a closed-door meeting with Clark about the incident where Auzenne overheard Clark screaming.
Stokes said Clark cried when she left Auzen’s office.
The massive pain cream program that began in Mississippi has defrauded TRICARE and other health care providers nationwide by more than $ 1.5 billion, the government claims. In Mississippi alone, at least 25 have been indicted under the program. Twenty of them were convicted or pleaded guilty in court.
Pain Cream Trial: Closing arguments are expected to begin on Friday, followed by the deliberations of the jury.