A pharmaceuticals marketer who was paid millions by two Fort Worth pharmacies was convicted Thursday of conspiracy, receiving kickbacks and money laundering.
A jury in the court of U.S. District Judge Karen Gren Scholer of Dallas found Quintan Cockerell guilty of three of six counts with which he was charged. He was acquitted on a separate conspiracy charge and on two other money-laundering counts.
The jury returned its verdict on its fourth day of deliberations, after a week of testimony.
A federal grand jury in 2020 accused Cockerell of taking part in a far-ranging conspiracy to defraud the government by inducing doctors to send prescriptions for medications, many of them needless, to Xpress Compounding in exchange for a cut of the take. Cockerell, according to testimony in his trial, also profited from prescriptions sent to Rxpress Pharmacy, a related business with overlapping ownership to that of Xpress Compounding.
Both Fort Worth pharmacies specialized in formulating “compounded medicines,” custom-mixed and often exceedingly expensive prescription drugs for patients who, for one reason or another, cannot take mass-produced pharmaceuticals.
In closing arguments last week, Jacqueline Zee DerOvanesian, a Justice Department prosecutor from Miramar, Florida, told the jury Cockerell was a willing participant in a bribery and kickback scheme that bilked TRICARE, the government’s healthcare insurance program for American military personnel and their families, out of roughly $60 million in taxpayers’ money – dollars that were “intended to provide real medical care to members of the United States military.”
Chris Knox of Dallas, Cockerell’s lead defense attorney, told the jury the case against his client was a “house of cards,” “smoke and mirrors” and a “sham.” Cockerell, he said, engaged in legitimate, legal marketing efforts on behalf of the Fort Worth pharmacies.
“If telling a doctor that a pharmacy is doing a good job is illegal, then marketing is illegal,” he told jurors in his closing argument.
On Thursday, after the jury returned its verdict, Knox said Cockerell, 42, will appeal.
“While we certainly respect the jury’s verdict and the trial process, I feel the statutes in this case were stretched far beyond their intended reach,” he told The Texas Lawbook. “Mr. Cockerell did not refer any patients or make any recommendations for treatment or services. In effect, this case seems to rewrite the law and criminalize marketing.”
Prosecuting the case along with DerOvanesian is Kate Payerle, a Justice Department attorney from Washington, D.C. She told jurors Cockerell knew he was being paid kickbacks to bring in doctors who would send their prescriptions to Xpress Compounding and Rxpress Pharmacy, and that he was among the conspirators who wined and dined the doctors and offered them financial incentives to keep their business.
“He understood they were doing it the wrong way, and they decided not to do it the right way,” she said.
Knox’s co-counsel representing Cockerell is Shirley Baccus-Lobel of Dallas.
Many of the government’s witnesses at Cockerel’s trial were executives or associates of the pharmacies, who were testifying under plea agreements.
Cockerell’s ex-wife, Kristin Najarian, testified that Cockerell arranged to have her listed as a phantom employee of Xpress Compounding, which paid her more than $2.4 million for work she never did.
“I wasn’t working there,” she testified, adding, “I never did any work to earn that money.”
Prosecutors said her phantom “employment” was a means to funnel kickbacks to Cockerell.
His trial was the second to result from a federal investigation into billings by the Fort Worth pharmacies. In July, a different jury in Judge Scholer’s court convicted Richard Hall, a co-owner of Xpress Compounding and Rxpress Pharmacy, of four counts of paying kickbacks and one count of conspiracy to launder money. Hall is awaiting sentencing.