Bridget McCune has been working for more than a year with prosecutors building a case against individuals linked to the largest health care fraud enforcement action in U.S. history.
Destin resident Bridget McCune, who faces arraignment Thursday on federal fraud and conspiracy charges, has been working for more than a year with prosecutors building a case against individuals linked to the largest health care fraud enforcement action in U.S. history.
McCune was formally indicted July 14 as part of a “nationally coordinated roundup” of 412 health care industry workers believed to be defrauding insurers and prescription drug administrators. The total amount in false billings announced by the Department of Justice was estimated to be $1.3 billion.
Although she will plead not guilty at the arraignment hearing, McCune, 41, has already agreed to provide testimony against “any defendant she is called to testify against at any time,” her attorney, Artie McLaughlin, said Wednesday.
“She is extremely remorseful and has been cooperating with the federal government for some time,” said McLaughlin, based out of Shepherdsville, Kentucky. “To me, that goes a long way to showing how sorry and remorseful she is. She has never been caught up in anything like this before.”
Among those she could be called to testify against, McLaughlin said, is a Florida physician to whom McCune had a “close familial relationship.”
The physician, identified only as Prescriber #5 in the federal indictment filed against McCune, is implicated as being party to the fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud for which she has been charged.
“An inference can be drawn (through the court documents) as to who Prescriber #5 might be,” McLaughlin said.
McCune’s recently divorced husband, Dr. Mathew McCune, is a Fort Walton Beach-based specialist in pain management and anesthesiology with offices in Destin, Crestview and Milton. He opened his Dynamic Pain & Wellness clinic on Mar Walt Drive near Fort Walton Beach Medical Center in December 2015.
He was an associate medical staff member of the hospital, but that ended in December 2016, according to hospital spokeswoman Denise Kendust.
“He was an associate member of the staff, but his practice was not associated with the hospital,” Kendust said.
An effort to reach McCune on Wednesday was unsuccessful. A member of his office staff referred questions to Dallas-based attorney Michael C. Elliott.
Elliott said he represents physicians and physicians’ practices, and confirmed he was working as Mathew McCune’s lawyer. Elliott’s website states he specializes in business and commercial law as well as criminal law and health care.
Elliott described the charges against Bridget McCune as “a problem she ran into that has nothing to do with (Mathew McCune)” and referred to recently released news items and court records as “documents specific to her.”
Of McCune, he said, “the guy hasn’t been charged.”
“There are no allegations, nothing to do with his practice,” Elliott said.
The McCunes have been divorced since March, Walton County court records show. Elliott said the couple have children together and Dr. McCune is standing by his former spouse as a family matter.
Bridget McCune is one of just three people to date formally charged in the case brought by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Alabama. The investigation remains open, said Peggy Sanford, spokeswoman for the Alabama District Court.
“There could be further charges,” she said.
The case focused on the business practices of Northside Pharmacy, a Haleyville, Alabama, company that did business as Global Compounding Pharmacy. It alleges McCune and Kelly Norris-Hartley of Tuscaloosa committed the crimes of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, wire fraud and mail fraud. Norris-Hartley was charged in a separate indictment.
McCune worked closely with Prescriber #5 to “generate prescriptions, particularly high-reimbursement prescriptions” for Global Compounding Pharmacy, according to a news release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Alabama.
The items prescribed were primarily compounds, which court records say are made to “fit the unique needs of each patient” and not regulated or approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration. The FDA also does not verify the safety or effectiveness of compounded medications, the charging document in McCune’s case said.
Items Global pushed on patients included scar removal creams, analgesics for pain control and topical skin repair formulas, the court document states. McCune conspired with Global and others to defraud, among others, insurers that included Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Medicare and TRICARE, a Department of Defense health care program.
As part of the conspiracy, a Global manager “sought out and hired as outside sales representatives, individuals: (a) with marital and other close familial relationships to prescribers, including physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners,” the federal government alleges.
Global hired McCune as the outside sales representative for Florida and set her up to work with Prescriber #5, “who would and did write prescriptions for prescription drugs to be filled by Global and its affiliate pharmacies,” the charging document stated, adding that McCune received a base salary and monthly commissions based on the total monthly profits for prescriptions she obtained.
Global “regularly instructed (its) outside sales representatives and other employees to obtain prescriptions for Global’s highest reimbursing products for themselves and their family members regardless of medical necessity,” the charging documents said.
Between Feb. 23 and March 20 of 2015, the document states, McCune listed about 205 prescriptions, of which about 196 were written by Prescriber #5. These prescriptions were written for patients with government insurance plans and for McCune, Prescriber #5 and other members of her family.
The District Court alleges that on Jan. 9, 2015, McCune was promoted to National Field Trainer in an effort to create the appearance that she would not continue to be paid a commission for each of Prescriber #5’s prescriptions.
The charging documents quote an email from Prescriber #5 to Global, of which McCune was blind carbon copied. It is indicative of the actions taking place.
“My issue has been refills,” the email states. “Most patients are being overwhelmed with the refills, and I have to convince them that even though the creams work to keep getting the refills, as they have a lot left over.
“Many want to have them stopped as they have a bunch left over. Obviously you don’t want this to happen. So I have a couple of thoughts. I’ve been telling patients to apply a lot of cream at a time to go through it. I’d like to tell patients there is an expiration on the creams but I’m not sure there is. If there is I can tell them to get rid of the old supply when the new supply comes in."
Before their divorce, Mathew and Bridget McCune listed their home address as 4116 Indian Trail, a high-end Destin neighborhood. Charging documents indicate Global paid McCune more than $400,000 between September 2014 and July 6, 2016, when she left the company.
As part of her deal with the government, McCune will be required to forfeit $401,628.
While McCune and Norris-Hartley have agreed in principle to the deals they’ve been offered and signed plea agreements, they will enter not guilty pleas at Thursday's hearing, according to Sanford, the district court spokeswoman.
A hearing date will be set at some point for them to change their plea to guilty. When that will be is not certain at this time, Sanford said.