Federal jury reaches verdict on Columbus podiatrist accused of taking drug kickbacks

A federal jury in Miami has found a Columbus podiatrist guilty of conspiring to defraud the government and of accepting kickbacks for prescribing medications.

The jury reached the verdict Monday after a trial in the U.S. Courthouse in Miami, finding Dr. Alap Shah guilty on the conspiracy charge and on two counts of taking kickbacks involving a federal health care program. He was found not guilty on one of his three kickback charges.

U.S. District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro of the Southern District of Florida set Shah’s sentencing for 1:30 p.m. May 3. Shah faces up to five years in prison on each count, according to court records.

Shah’s June 19, 2018 indictment alleged he took kickback payments from PGRX, a Weston, Fla.-based business that recruited and paid doctors to prescribe compounded medications for private commercial insurance beneficiaries and for patients in TRICARE, a federal program that insures both active-duty and retired members of the armed forces.

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Shah and his co-conspirators signed false medical director and speaker agreements to conceal PGRX’s paying Shah for writing prescriptions, authorities said. TRICARE sent payment for the prescriptions to Atlantic Pharmacy, which is in the Southern District of Florida.

Shah’s indictment was among those resulting from a crackdown last year by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which targeted 601 defendants across 58 federal districts, including 76 doctors. Also charged were nurses and other licensed medical professionals accused of joining in the fraudulent schemes that involved about $2 billion in false billings, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Besides TRICARE, the schemes targeted Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies that were charged for unnecessary prescription drugs and compounded medications, some that were never purchased or distributed to beneficiaries, the FDA said.

Shah’s indictment cited acts from May 21, 2014 to Aug. 12, 2015.

The prosecutors in Shah’s case were Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel Bernstein and Jonathan Stratton.

According to previous Ledger-Enquirer reports, Shah, 44, is a native of Fort Worth, Texas, who has been practicing in Columbus for 16 years. Shah was recruited to Columbus in 2002 by James Joseph Bartley Jr., who died in 2012 in a Mississippi plane crash.