Red Bud pharmacist who submitted false insurance claims sentenced to federal prison

A pharmacist and former owner of Gibson’s Discount Drugs in Red Bud has been sentenced to 33 months in prison on federal health care fraud charges.

In August, Steven P. Gibson, 30, admitted that he had engaged in a scheme to defraud federal health care benefit programs and private insurance companies out of $630,000. On Tuesday, he was told he must pay all of that back before he heads to prison for almost three years.

According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Gibson submitted almost 1,000 false and fraudulent claims in the names of his family members and customers for prescription medication from December 2016 to February 2018.

Gibson said he chose the most expensive medications to file bogus claims because he knew it would be paid for by insurers, including Medicare and Medicaid. Some of those medications included Creon, which treats chronic pancreatitis, and hydroxychloroquine, which treats malaria.

These medications, among others, were not authorized by any licensed medical practitioners and were never filed or given to any of the family members or customers whose names were on the prescription.

According to the release, Gibson’s crime first came to light in late 2017 when a pharmacist answered a call from a customer who recognized her son had been billed for expensive medications he had not received. The pharmacist quit her job and notified authorities of Gibson’s fraud.

In February 2018, Gibson told the News-Democrat that the 150 percent increase in prescriptions over 20 months was due to careful buying and “being real aggressive with new customers.”

As part of Gibson’s plea deal, he agreed to repay all of the money and to make restitution payments in advance of his sentencing. When he was sentenced on Tuesday, however, he had only repaid $30,000 and had otherwise failed to account for the rest of the money he stole.

U.S. District Judge Staci M. Yandle, who oversaw the case, told Gibson she did not believe his expressions of remorse and refused to award him credit for acceptance of responsibility.

“Talk is cheap,” she said. “The remorseful or repentant criminal would want to do everything possible to rectify the harmful consequences of his crime, and so if he still has any of the loot he will return it.”

Yandle was also troubled by statements Gibson’s wife had made on the pharmacy’s public Facebook account that downplayed his criminal conduct, the release stated. Yandle said she took that into account when sentencing Gibson.

“Some people minimize these kinds of crimes,” she said. “This court does not.”

Gibson was released on bond with special conditions pending the start of his prison term, the release stated. His sentence also includes two years of supervised release. Because of the large amount of restitution he still owes, Gibson was not ordered to pay a fine.

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Hana Muslic has been a public safety reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat since August 2018, covering everything from crime and courts to accidents, fires and natural disasters. She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Journalism and her previous work can be found in The Lincoln Journal-Star and The Kansas City Star.