Conviction stands for Camilla pharmacist

ALBANY, Ga. -- After more than a year of deliberations and research, a federal court judge has denied a defense motion seeking to have the health care fraud conviction against a Camilla pharmacist overturned.

Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Louis Sands filed an order with the court denying J. Harris Morgan's motion for an acquittal of the 69 counts of aiding and abetting health care fraud that a jury found him guilty of October 23, 2008.

Sands also denied Morgan's motion for a new trial, court documents show.

Morgan was indicted on 70 counts involving the overbilling of Medicaid stemming from the operation of Thrift Pharmacy in Camilla -- a store he owned and operated.

Following a six-day trial which included testimony from 16 different witnesses, a jury acquitted Morgan of the lone conspiracy count, but convicted him on the 69 remaining fraud counts.

Morgan's attorney, Steven Sadow, filed a motion for acquittal and a subsequent motion for a new trial after the government rested its case in October, 2008. Thursday, Sands issued his order.

In the 12-page court order, Sands said that the evidence presented in the case was sufficient to support the jury's guilty verdict and specifically pointed to the government's response to the motion which stated that over a two-and-a-half year period, Morgan and his pharmacy overbilled Georgia Medicaid $2.7 million and that Morgan would instruct pharmacy employees to falsely report to Medicaid that a child patient had been diagnosed with a certain respiratory ailment even though no physician had diagnosed it in an effort to qualify for Medicaid coverage.

"The court finds that this evidence is sufficient to support a reasonable jury's inference of the existence of a scheme to defraud Georgia Medicaid," Sands writes.

Sands also pointed to what he called circumstantial evidence that supports the verdict, specifically the government's assertion and testimony from witnesses that during the same two-year period, Morgan was "making large, luxurious purchases totaling $2.7 million at the time of the scheme and was giving large year-end bonuses to some employees including a bonus of 26 percent of an office administrator's annual salary."

Morgan and his attorney had argued during the trial that the overbillings were the result of errors from a billing clerk who was overworked and stressed due to the volume of customers.

The Herald attempted to contact Sadow Friday, but did not receive a response before presstime.

A hearing will likely be set to determine Morgan's sentence.