Suspect to plead guilty in $1.3 million medical supply scam

Matthew Lane • Updated Oct 7, 2017 at 9:37 AM

GREENEVILLE -– A local man has agreed to plead guilty for his involvement in an elaborate scam to trick a Johnson City surgery center to pay out more than $1.3 million.

Donald Kevin Collins and Charles Turner were indicted in U.S. District Court in Greeneville earlier this year, both charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and 15 counts of mail fraud. This week, Turner agreed to plead guilty to the conspiracy charge.

His next hearing is scheduled for Nov. 2. Collins is scheduled to go to trial on Jan. 9.

For nearly six years, prosecutors say, the two men ran a scam on a Johnson City surgical center. They created a fake company, submitted false invoices and purchase orders, and ultimately tricked the business’ owners into paying them more than $1.3 million for equipment never received.

According to court records, Collins worked at Mountain Empire Surgery Center in Johnson City, first as a supply clerk beginning in May 2000 and then as a material manager in 2003. Collins was responsible for ordering and receiving medical supplies and equipment for MESC.

Prosecutors say that in early 2009, Turner was a student at East Tennessee State University. He met Collins through Collins’ wife, who worked in the Office of Financial Aid at ETSU. Initially, Collins deceived Turner into believing they were conducting a lawful business operation, but in April 2010, Turner became fully aware he was involved in a criminal conspiracy, court records state.

The conspiracy involved creating a fake medical supply company called Turner Distributors and opening bank accounts at Carter County Bank.

From there, prosecutors say the two men created and submitted false purchase orders, invoices and packing slips to MESC purporting to show MESC had received medical supplies and equipment from Turner Distributors, knowing they would never receive the equipment.

United Surgical Partners International – the owner and operator of MESC – would then issue a check to Turner Distributors.

Prosecutors say the two men would then deposit the checks into the accounts with Turner removing the cash, keeping about 35 percent for himself and the balance for Collins.

From April 2010 to March 2016, Collins created 161 false purchase orders, packing slips and invoices to MESC and received more than $1.3 million in payments for equipment never delivered.

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