Former Sarasota Pain Doctor Sentenced In Health Care Fraud Kickback Conspiracy

2 mins read
FILE PHOTO: American flag waves outside the U.S. Department of Justice Building in Washington

Tampa, Florida – U.S. District Judge William H. Jung has sentenced Dr. Steven Chun (59, Sarasota) for conspiring to pay and receive kickbacks and bribes. Chun was sentenced to three years and six months in federal prison and ordered to forfeit $278,900, the proceeds of his offenses. On May 24, 2022, a federal jury found Chun and Daniel Tondre (52, Tampa) guilty of conspiring to pay and receive kickbacks and bribes, in the form of speaker fees, in return for prescribing the fentanyl spray, Subsys. Both were also convicted of five separate substantive counts of paying and receiving kickbacks. Tondre is scheduled for sentencing on December 15, 2022.

According to evidence presented during the 10-day trial, Chun was a doctor who owned and operated a pain management medical practice in Sarasota where he prescribed a large volume of Subsys, an expensive form of liquid fentanyl designed to be applied under the tongue (sublingual spray), allowing it to rapidly enter the bloodstream to help relieve break-through pain in certain cancer patients. Tondre was employed as a sales representative by Insys Therapeutics, Inc., the company that manufactured and sold Subsys. Insys, through its sales representative, Tondre, actively marketed Subsys to Chun by holding bogus and sham speaker events, and paid Chun $2,400 to $3,000 per speaker event in return for Chun writing more and higher dosages of Subsys prescriptions. The sham speaker programs were often only attended by Chun’s family and friends, or repeat attendees, and included many falsified or forged signatures of attendees. The sham speaker programs were designed to conceal and disguise kickbacks and bribes paid to Chun to induce him to prescribe Subsys.

According to the evidence, Insys paid Chun more than $278,900 in illegal kickbacks and bribes via the sham speaker programs over a period of less than three years. Tondre earned more than $737,000 in salary and sales commissions over a period of two and half years. Medicare Part D paid more than $4.5 million for Subsys prescriptions written by Chun.

During the sentencing hearing, two former patients of Chun testified regarding the devastating impact that Subsys had on their lives.

“This corrupt medical professional ignored patient care and instead inflicted financial pain,” said FBI Tampa Division Special Agent in Charge David Walker. “The FBI and its law enforcement partners work hard to ensure our nation’s federally funded healthcare system is protected from deception and greed.

“Contrary to proper patient care, the defendants repeatedly disregarded opportunities to promote legitimate, suitable pain management for beneficiaries to instead pursue personal gain,” said Special Agent in Charge Omar Pérez Aybar with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. “It is a top priority of our agency and law enforcement partners to bring to justice individuals who exploit their proximity to patients to defraud federal health care programs.”

“This sentence demonstrates the effectiveness of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, our law enforcement partners, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, in holding corrupt medical providers accountable when they fraudulently divert Defense Health Agency funds, putting their own greed before patient welfare,” said Special Agent in Charge Darrin Jones of the Defense Department’s Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Southeast Field Office. “DCIS and our partners are committed to rooting out fraud and corruption and safeguarding the precious Taxpayer funding intended for the healthcare of our military members and their families.”

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Health and Human Services—Office of Inspector General, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, and by the Opioid Fraud Abuse and Detection Unit at the United States Attorney’s Office, which focuses on opioid-related fraud and abuse by medical and health care professionals who have contributed to the prescription opioid epidemic. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Kelley C. Howard-Allen and Jennifer L. Peresie.