Feds: Man phoned in bogus HIV-med scripts, sold pills for cash

A Philadelphia man is facing federal charges for allegedly calling in fraudulent prescriptions for HIV medications, then selling the pills for cash.

Jermaine Hairston, 38, was charged by indictment on Tuesday with 13 counts of health-care fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.

In court filings, prosecutors claimed Hairston stole the identifying information of a practicing physician who treated him in the emergency room of Temple University Hospital in October 2012. He allegedly used the information to phone in to pharmacies across the city prescriptions in the names of various medical-assistance recipients. 

Hairston would allegedly pick up the medications, generating claims to other patients’ health insurance. Prosecutors said he then sold the pills for cash.

Hairston is accused of falsely obtaining six different anti-retroviral medications, which are commonly combined in a cocktail and used to reduce the amount of HIV in the blood and lessen the risk of AIDS-related illnesses.

Because the medications are not classified as controlled substances, they do not require paper prescriptions, investigators noted in an affidavit. Since the patients were on medical assistance, there was often no copayment due at the time of medication pick-up, prosecutors said. 

Hairston allegedly caused insurance companies to pay at least 13 fraudulent claims, totaling over $13,000, in connection with at least three patients. 

Hairston in 2010 and 2011 attended several meetings of a volunteer advocacy group tasked with helping to plan HIV-prevention services in Philadelphia, minute records indicate. He was identified in a 2009 Philadelphia Weekly article as an HIV-positive resident who had recently decided to return to the city and go back on medication to treat the virus. 

Hairston was arrested April 23 and released the next day on $50,000 bond. Under the conditions of his release, he was required to check in with pretrial services, surrender his passport, submit to random drug screenings, and reside at Our Brothers’ Place homeless shelter at 907 Hamilton St., court documents state. 

Bail was revoked and a bench warrant was issued for Hairston’s arrest last week after he allegedly failed to report regularly to his pretrial services and urinalysis office visits.

When a pretrial services officer called Our Brothers’ Place, the investigator was told that Hairston may have stopped by for lunch or to shower but did not stay overnight and had never lived at the shelter, court documents state. Hairston’s brother and defense attorney both also admitted they were unaware of Hairston’s whereabouts, and case investigators were last able to contact him May 1, according to court filings.

If convicted of the charges, Hairston faces a maximum possible penalty of 132 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a $3.5 million fine, and a $1,400 special assessment. 

Contact Alex Wigglesworth at 215-854-2305 or awigglesworth@philly.com. Follow @phila_lex on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; BreakingNewsDesk@philly.com. Follow @phillynews on Twitter.