Drs. Thomas Sturdavant and Shahjahan Sultan and nurse Fallon Page pleaded guilty for their roles in a $7.2 million fraud on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019.
HATTIESBURG, Miss. — A Tennessee doctor licensed to practice in Mississippi has been sentenced to two years in prison for his role in a multimillion-dollar health care fraud involving expensive pain creams and diet pills.
Thomas Sturdavant, of Kingsport, Tennessee, who pleaded guilty in November, appeared Monday before U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett at William M. Colmer Federal Courthouse in Hattiesburg.
“I apologize to the state of Mississippi, to the medical board, my family, my friends and patients and the victims of my fraudulent activity,” he said. “I accept full responsibility. The red flags were there. I saw things happen that I knew were not above board. I stayed, even though I knew it wasn’t right.”
Sturdavant is no longer eligible to practice medicine in Mississippi. His Tennessee license is listed as valid until April, and no disciplinary action is recorded.
“Should the board take formal disciplinary action on Dr. Sturdavent’s Tennessee license based on the criminal matter in Mississippi, his licensure verification page would then be updated to reflect the formal disciplinary action once issued by the Board,” a Tennessee Department of Health spokesman said Monday.
One of Sturdavant’s co-conspirators, Dr. Shahjahan Sultan, was sentenced June 16 to four years in prison.
Sturdavant was working with Sultan in Mississippi when the fraud occurred. At first Sturdavant said he was an active participant, but he realized he needed to stop the criminal activity and left.
Since his arrest and subsequent guilty plea, Sturdavant said he has been spending much of his time volunteering and “giving back to the state of Mississippi what I’ve taken.”
Starrett said he appreciates Sturdavant’s efforts to get his life back on the right path.
“I think that you have attempted to right a wrong as best you could,” the judge said. “That speaks volumes to the court. This is not the end of your life. It is a new beginning.”
Sultan, Sturdavant and nurses Fallon Page of Soso and Freda Covington of Hattiesburg were charged in a 15-count indictment alleging crimes ranging from health care and mail fraud to distributing and dispensing a controlled substance to paying and receiving health care kickbacks.
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Sultan and Sturdavant pleaded guilty to one count each of health care fraud before U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett at William M. Colmer Federal Courthouse. Page entered a guilty plea to one count of mail fraud. Covington pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and mail fraud.
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The two men have been ordered to pay restitution. Sturdavant is responsible for $2.4 million. Around $4 million of the $7.2 million in fraudulent charges has already been returned to the federal government.
Covington and Page are still awaiting sentencing.
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The four, according to the government, conducted the illegal activities in Jones and Jackson counties, through an arrangement with Gardens Pharmacy in Ocean Springs, owned by the late Clark Levi.
The expensive, compounded medications were prescribed to patients who had video consultations with the doctors and some who were never examined before the drugs were prescribed.
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