A Cleveland doctor was sentenced on Wednesday to 5 years in prison for healthcare fraud in connection with fraudulent hospice operations throughout the Mississippi Delta.
According to court documents, Scott Nelson, 58, was a medical director for numerous fraudulent hospice operations in North Mississippi. He was convicted by jury after a two-week trial in April 2022. Evidence at trial showed numerous hospice patients that Nelson referred to hospice were not terminally ill and in fact, were still relatively healthy and able to testify at the trial almost ten years after Nelson put them on hospice.
The Court found that Nelson was responsible for over $16 million in fraudulent payments from Medicare to various hospice organizations. At a hearing on Wednesday in Greenville, Nelson was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Debra Brown to serve 60 months in prison and ordered to pay $15 million in restitution.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to doing everything it can to protect the rights of victims and to protect taxpayers from fraud, waste and abuse,” remarked U.S. Attorney Clay Joyner. “Instead of earning an honest living by treating patients and billing fairly, this doctor chose to defraud the government and the taxpayers of money that was intended to help terminal patients needing end of life care. The sentence imposed is important to hold this defendant accountable and to send a message that there are consequences to those who choose to enrich themselves through stealing tax dollars intended to help some of our most vulnerable citizens.”
“Just to enrich himself, Dr. Nelson fraudulently prescribed hospice care for a steady stream of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries who he knew were not dying, ignoring the fact that under this end-of-life status they would not be eligible for curative services,” said Special Agent in Charge Tamala E. Miles of HHS OIG. “The guilty verdict in this case shows that our investigators and our law enforcement partners will aggressively pursue irresponsible practitioners who put their greed for profits above the well-being of their patients.”
“We appreciate this opportunity to work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General to uphold the integrity of Medicaid and Medicare, the trust of the taxpayers, and the highest levels of accountability in our health care system,” said Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch. “We look forward to more opportunities to do good and secure justice for Mississippi through these strong partnerships.”
Nelson’s co-defendants, Charlene Brandon, Wendell Brandon and Annette Lofton had previously pled guilty to healthcare fraud charges. The Nelson trial and conviction is the culmination of a years long effort by the United States Attorney’s Office to investigate and prosecute hospice fraud in North Mississippi.
The Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General and the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office investigated the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Clayton Dabbs and Kimberly Hampton prosecuted the case.