Miss. doctor's plea deal ends fraud case

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A Mississippi physician who wrote fake prescriptions that helped defraud Medicare of more than $5 million lost her medical license and has been ordered in Baton Rouge federal court to repay the insurer $1.6 million.

Dr. Jo A. Francis, 61, of Natchez, Miss., pleaded guilty Thursday to two counts of conspiracy to commit health-care fraud. She appeared in a wheelchair before U.S. District Judge James J. Brady and apologized for her crimes.

Prescriptions from a Mandeville physician, Dr. Sofjan Lamid, also are alleged to have fueled the Medicare frauds planned by admitted leader Henry L. Jones, of Baton Rouge. But Lamid's case remains unresolved.

The Advocate reports sentencing guidelines called for a prison term ranging from 70 months to 87 months for Francis, but her attorneys - John S. McLindon, of Baton Rouge, and Chokwe Lumumba, of Jackson, Miss., - told the judge the former physician is recovering from a stroke she suffered in May 2011. The attorneys also said Francis suffers from diabetes and chronic renal failure.

McLindon and Lumumba added in court filings that Francis "requires daily medical care."

Justice Department prosecutor David M. Maria told Brady that Francis cooperated with Baton Rouge Medicare Fraud Strike Force investigators. Maria added that Francis' health problems justified a sentence of probation.

Brady sentenced Francis to two years of probation and ordered her to pay restitution of $1.6 million to the federal government.

The judge also approved Francis' plea agreement, which ends her medical career. The agreement Francis signed Nov. 7 includes her pledge "to surrender her license to practice medicine permanently."

Francis also agreed: "She will never again practice medicine in any capacity in any jurisdiction."

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)