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Anatomy of a Scam: Materials Manager and His Accomplice Allegedly Bilked Facility Into Buying Supplies It Never Received

Two men, including the ASC's former materials manager, have been indicted on multiple counts of fraud for allegedly scheming $1.3 million out of Mountain Empire Surgery Center.

Published: August 25, 2017

DECEIVED Mountain Empire Surgery Center of Johnson City, Tenn.

Two men, including a former materials manager, allegedly bilked a Tennessee surgery center into paying for more than $1.3 million in surgical supplies and equipment that were never delivered.

Donald Kevin Collins and Charles Turner were indicted in U.S. District Court in Greeneville, Tenn., earlier this month for the 6-year scheme. The indictment alleges the men deceived Mountain Empire Surgery Center of Johnson City, Tenn., into sending them more than 160 fraudulently obtained checks worth more than $1.3 million, which the men then deposited at a Tennessee bank.

Through their fake company, Turner Distributors, the men created and submitted 161 fraudulent purchase orders, invoices and packing slips to Mountain Empire Surgery Center from 2010 to 2016. The center's owner and operator, United Surgical Partners International (USPI), would then issue a check to Turner Distributors, even though no supplies or equipment were ever delivered to the surgery center, according to court documents.

Mr. Collins had intimate knowledge of the surgery center's supply chain. He worked for Mountain Empire Surgery Center, first as a supply clerk and then as materials manager, from 2000 to 2016. He was responsible for ordering and receiving the center's medical supplies and equipment. Mr. Collins, who resigned from the ASC in April, pleaded not guilty during his initial court appearance and was released after posting a $20,000 unsecured bond.

Turner Distributors might still be submitting bogus purchase orders if not for the sharp eye of James Branon, administrator of Mountain Empire Surgery Center, whom USPI credits with recognizing irregularities in the invoices for supplies soon after he joined the facility. "Mr. Branon, along with the law enforcement authorities involved, was instrumental in investigating the matter. We are grateful for their efforts. USPI will continue to cooperate with law enforcement and the judicial process in all respects," the company said in an emailed statement to Outpatient Surgery.

Mr. Collins and Mr. Turner have been charged with conspiracy and 15 counts of mail fraud for billing the surgery center for purchased medical supplies and equipment that was never delivered. A trial has been set for October 17. If convicted, the pair will need to forfeit all proceeds associated with the charges, which amount to a minimum of more than $1.3 million.

Bill Donahue

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