Jury deliberations began Wednesday in the federal fraud trial of Fort Worth pharmacy owner Richard Hall, who is accused of cheating U.S. taxpayers out of $55 million by billing government health insurance programs for thousands of fraudulent prescriptions.
The jury in the court of U.S. District Judge Karen Gren Scholer of Dallas deliberated through the afternoon without reaching a verdict. Deliberations are to resume at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.
A 2020 indictment issued by a grand jury in the Northern District of Texas accuses Hall and his business associates of operating “a vast network of marketers” who got millions of dollars in kickbacks to recruit doctors to write thousands of prescriptions for costly compounded medications at the defendant’s pharmacies.
TRICARE, the federal health insurance program for U.S. military personnel, was the main public target of the swindle, prosecutors said during five days of testimony in Hall’s trial.
Hall faces one count of conspiracy, four counts of paying kickbacks and one count of money laundering.
In closing arguments Wednesday, after five days of testimony, defense attorney John D. Cline of San Francisco said Hall believed that millions of dollars paid to marketers to steer prescriptions to Hall’s pharmacies constituted a legitimate business expense.
“Mr. Hall did his level best to run a good business,” Cline said. He further noted that six of the 10 witnesses the government called at trial were originally indicted with Hall. Cline said those witnesses entered into plea agreements to save their own necks by agreeing to finger Hall as the bad guy. The government, he said, “put corrupt men on the witness stand to convict Mr. Hall.”
Prosecutor Kate Payerle said in the government’s closing argument that prosecution witnesses testifying under plea agreements were the crooks Hall chose to do business with.
“The government didn’t choose these witnesses,” she said. “The defendant did.”