BRUNSWICK, GA: A pharmacist who owned and operated Fulghum Pharmacy in Baxley, Ga. was sentenced today to 48 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to a conspiracy that involved health care fraud and illegal distribution of opioids.
Ray Ashley Dixon, R.Ph., 42, of Baxley, Ga., was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood after pleading guilty to conspiracy, said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. In addition, Dixon will be on supervised release for three years following completion of his prison term.
There is no parole in the federal system.
“Pharmacists are entrusted with significant responsibility in our healthcare system,” said U.S. Attorney Christine. “Illegally distributing drugs is a major violation of that trust, and pharmacists who do so will find, like Ray Dixon, that there is no tolerance for such crimes in the Southern District.”
According to court documents and information presented during the sentencing hearing, Dixon distributed opioids, including oxycodone and hydrocodone, to several individuals without a legitimate prescription issued by a physician in the usual course of professional practice. Upon inspection by agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, Fulghum Pharmacy could not account for more than 10,000 units controlled substances. Dixon, through his pharmacy, also was a major source of opioids for patients of notorious convicted pill-mill operator Dr. Frank Bynes, Jr., distributing in excess of 110,000 units of opioids and other controlled substances during a 15-month period.
In addition to his drug distribution, Dixon created fake prescriptions for expensive medications and then billed insurance programs, including Medicare Part D plans and Medicaid, for those medications, despite the fact that the medications were neither prescribed nor dispensed. According to information presented during the sentencing hearing, Ray Dixon’s fraud amounted to more than $1.8 million over four years, which he will be required to pay back as restitution. Ray Dixon also agreed to forfeit cash, vehicles, and investment accounts as part of his agreement with the government.
Robert J. Murphy, the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division commented, “This pharmacist spun a web of deception by illegally distributing prescriptions opioids and other controlled substances. Such careless behavior allows for substances to be diverted and sold on the black market with no true measure of accountability. This sentencing will discourage other negligent healthcare providers from engaging in unlawful criminal behavior.”
“Creating fake prescriptions for expensive medications and then fraudulently billing them to Medicare and Medicaid is an appalling act,” said Derrick L. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General in Atlanta. “Today’s sentencing should act as a fair warning to anyone who might be contemplating similarly illegal conduct.”
“A primary means of addressing opioid-addiction in this country is to ensure that only those with legitimate medical needs receive such drugs in the first place,” said Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr. “Mr. Dixon ignored his important gatekeeping function and did so for his own benefit. We commend U.S. Attorney Christine’s Office and believe that the sentence Mr. Dixon received sends a strong message that this will not be tolerated.”
“Like so many other communities, Appling County has been overcome with the struggles associated with drug abuse,” said Appling County Sheriff Mark Melton. “Specifically, the illicit pill market has hit us hard, causing many of our citizens to follow a path of destruction in which they will never return. In the law enforcement arena, we expect to deal with these problems from the corrupt drug cartels and their networks. However, we never expect it to come from our professional providers such as Mr. Dixon, who became greedy and took advantage of the system and caused many to be affected and destroyed by his unacceptable behavior.”
Patients can be the first line of defense in stopping health care fraud. If you receive an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) with medications or services that you did not receive, please contact the healthcare fraud hotline maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services at 1-800-HHS-TIPS or oig.hhs.gov/fraud/report-fraud/.
Ray Dixon was investigated by a team comprised of federal, state, and local law enforcement. U.S. Attorney Christine lauded the cooperation by the investigative team, which was comprised of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, the Georgia Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, and the Appling County Sheriff’s Office.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jonathan A. Porter and J. Thomas Clarkson prosecuted Dixon, with significant assistance by Assistant U.S. Attorney Xavier A. Cunningham on asset recovery issues and Georgia Assistant Attorney General Jim Mooney on Medicaid fraud issues.