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A Rayville man’s request that his 30-month prison sentence be reduced was denied by a federal judge last week after the court considered the “seriousness” of the defendant’s role in a multilmillion-dollar health care kickback scheme.

Thomas “Tommy” Wilburn Shoemaker, of Rayville, was sentenced last month for his role in trying to defraud TRICARE and private insurance companies by paying kickbacks to distributors for the referral of medically unnecessary prescriptions. TRICARE is the health care program for uniformed service members, retirees and their families.

The conduct resulted in more than $180 million in fraudulent billings, including more than $50 million paid by federal health care programs.

Shoemaker was previously arrested in 2016 for exploitation of persons with infirmities, stemming from a complaint at the Northeast Louisiana War Veterans Home on U.S. Hwy 165 in Monroe where Shoemaker served as the assistant administrator from 2004 to 2013. In that case, Shoemaker was accused of exploiting a home resident suffering from a disease of the brain and stealing from that resident.

Last month, Shoemaker filed a motion for reconsideration in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, seeking a reduction of his 30-month sentence. He claimed he served as a minor participant in the health care kickback scheme and claimed the sentence did not account for his poor health or the lower sentences imposed on others involved in the kickback scheme.

According to court documents, Shoemaker participated in a scheme to defraud TRICARE and other health care benefit programs by acting as a marketer for a network of pharmacies owned and operated by co-conspirators Mitchell “Chad” Barrett and David Jason Rutland.

Shoemaker worked with the pharmacies to use his TRICARE insurance to adjust prescription formulas to ensure the highest reimbursement without regard to efficacy, and he recruited doctors to procure prescriptions for high margin compounded medications. Shoemaker also obtained numerous fraudulent prescriptions using the personal information of military acquaintances.

Last August, Shoemaker pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government and solicit, receive, offer, and pay illegal kickbacks. In addition to the term of imprisonment, Shoemaker was ordered to pay restitution and forfeit all assets traced to his ill-gotten gains.

In a Nov. 30, 2021 hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Keith Starrett, of the Southern District of Mississippi, Shoemaker’s attorney argued Shoemaker had a “minor role” in the scheme, compared to Barrett and Rutland. John Weber III, an assistant federal public defender, represented Shoemaker.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathlyn Van Buskirk said Shoemaker was involved in a “wide-reaching scheme.”

“We do not believe he should be given a minor participant role in this scheme,” Van Buskirk said.

Starrett agreed.

“Yes, Mr. Shoemaker is a lot smaller player than his two co-defendants,” Starrett said. “That does not mean he was a small participant.”

At the hearing, Shoemaker offered comments about his service in the armed forces as well as his past struggles fighting an opioid addiction.

“I am so proud of being able to serve my country,” Shoemaker said. “I recognize the shame I brought on myself and my family.”

In his Dec. 2 motion to reconsider sentence, Shoemaker again argued he was a “minor participant.”

“Mr. Shoemaker lacks the knowledge that a pharmacist, doctor, or nurse would have about healthcare and the laws governing the profession,” stated Shoemaker’s motion.

Last week, Starrett issued a court order denying Shoemaker’s motion for reconsideration of sentence.

“Each tub must sit on its own bottom and there are no two cases exactly alike,” stated Starrett’s Jan. 7 court order. “The Court is fully aware of the extensive and honorable service that Movant made serving his country, both in peace time and war time. The Court noted this and the significant injuries and health issues that he continues to face. Cases are not all apples to apples and each defendant and the actions of same are unique to that person.”

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