A Burlington man was arrested Friday for his role in a telemedicine scheme to prescribe expensive compounded medications to patients who did not need them, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Officials say Dr. Bernard Ogon, 45, is charged by complaint with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. He made his initial court appearance this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph A. Dickson in Newark federal court and was released on $500,000 secured bond.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Telemedicine allows health care providers to evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients remotely – without the need for an in-person visit –by interacting with a patient using telecommunications technology, such as the internet or telephone. Ogon was paid by various telemedicine companies to prescribe exorbitantly expensive compounded medications, such as pain creams, scar creams, migraine creams, and metabolic supplements/“wellness capsules,” regardless of whether they were medically necessary for the patient.
The telemedicine companies sent Ogon prescriptions to sign for compounded medications, and Ogon signed the prescriptions without having established any prior doctor-patient relationship, speaking with the patient, or conducting any kind of medical evaluation.
The telemedicine companies often filled out the prescriptions completely – including selecting the compound medications to be prescribed – before Ogon ever saw them. Once Ogon received the filled-out prescriptions, he needed only to sign them to complete the prescription.
Ogon often received little or no information about the patients before he signed the prescriptions. As a result, Ogon on multiple occasions signed prescriptions for either expensive compounded scar cream or pain cream even though he had not received any information indicating that the patient needed them. Ogon also signed prescriptions for patients residing in states where he was not licensed to practice medicine.
After Ogon signed the medically unnecessary prescriptions, they were sent to compounding pharmacies with whom he or other entities involved in the scheme had relationships. The compounding pharmacies then filled the prescriptions and billed the patient’s health care benefit program regardless of medical necessity.
The telemedicine companies paid Ogon on a per-prescription basis for many prescriptions he signed. One telemedicine company paid Ogon between $20 and $30 per prescription. Ogon’s participation in the conspiracy caused a loss to health care benefit programs of more than $20 million, at least $3 million of which was sustained by TRICARE – a health care benefit program for members of the military and their families.
The charge of conspiracy to commit health care fraud is punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.
The charge and allegations in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.