KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Two Florida men have been sentenced by a Federal Judge in Greeneville, Tennessee, for their roles in a multimillion-dollar healthcare fraud scheme.

Peter Bolos, 44, of Tampa, was convicted of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, 22 counts of mail fraud and introduction of a misbranded drug into interstate commerce. U.S. District Judge J. Ronnie Greer sentenced him to 14 years in prison and ordered him to pay more than $24.6 million in restitution and $2.5 million in forfeiture.

His co-defendant, Michael Palso, 48, of Tampa, was sentenced to 33 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $24.6 million in restitution.

“The scale of the prescription-drug fraud scheme orchestrated by Bolos and his conspirators was astonishing, and the 14-year sentence reflects the seriousness of Bolos’s participation in that conspiracy,” said U.S. Attorney Francis M. Hamilton III for the Eastern District of Tennessee. “The financial harm caused by health care fraud hurts all Americans, and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee will continue to support the cooperation among its federal law enforcement partners that is necessary to bring criminal swindlers like Bolos to justice.”

According to court documents, Bolos and Palso and their co-conspirators deceived pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), such as Express Scripts and CVS Caremark, into authorizing millions of dollars worth of claims for prescription drugs that private insurers such as Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, and public insurers such as Medicaid and TRICARE, paid to pharmacies controlled by the co-conspirators. The conspiracy lasted from May 2015 through April 2018.

Court documents claim Bolos, Palso and one other man owned and operated Synergy Pharmacy in Palm Harbor, Florida. Through this pharmacy, they employed Scott Roix, a telemarketer operating under the name HealthRight, to gain prescriptions for Synergy and the other pharmacies involved in the scheme.

To obtain the prescription, the Department of Justice said Roix used HeathRight’s telemarketing platform as a telemedicine service to cold-call people and deceive them into agreeing to accept the drugs and provide their insurance information.

The DOJ goes on to say that HeathRight paid doctors to authorize the prescriptions through its telemedicine platform, despite the doctors never communicating directly with the patients. This fraudulent process made the prescriptions invalid and the drugs were misbranded under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Nonetheless, Synergy and the other pharmacies dispensed the drugs to consumers as part of the scheme, so Bolos could submit fraudulent reimbursement claims.

Bolos and Palso, along with a co-defendant, paid Roix millions to buy at least 60,000 invalid prescriptions generated by HealthRight according to court documents. Bolos was also allegedly selecting medications that he could submit for profitable reimbursements at inflated prices.

On September 26, 2018, HealthRight LLC, Roix, and the CEO of HealthRight, pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy for their roles in the telemedicine health care fraud scheme. Roix and HealthRight LLC, also pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud in a separate scheme for fraudulently telemarketing dietary supplements, skin creams, and testosterone.

“This sentencing is the result of a multi-agency investigation into a complex telemedicine pharmacy fraud scheme, requiring substantial investigative resources,” said Special Agent in Charge Joseph E. Carrico of the FBI’s Knoxville Field Office. “The FBI, with its law enforcement partners, will remain vigilant to assure that unscrupulous individuals who exploit our health care system are brought to justice.”

The conspiracy was uncovered during a multi-year investigation conducted by the HHS-OIG (Nashville); FDA-OCI (Nashville); U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General (Buffalo); FBI (Knoxville and Johnson City, Tennessee); OPM-OIG (Atlanta); and HSI (Tampa). The U.S. Marshals Service also assisted in the investigation and the forfeiture of assets.