FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A Lavaca man facing a potential 160-year prison sentence for $100 million of COVID-related fraud charges has reached a plea deal.
Billy Joe Taylor, 43, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and one count of money laundering in exchange for having additional charges dropped. He now faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
Taylor was charged with 16 counts of healthcare fraud and one count of engaging in a monetary transaction in criminally derived property. On July 8, after multiple previous changes in representation, Taylor requested and was granted the right to represent himself in court.
After multiple handwritten motions filed by Taylor were summarily dismissed by the court, he changed course and obtained counsel again. In an October 19 court filing, Ken Osborne submitted an entry of appearance. The plea hearing before a magistrate judge was set on October 25.
According to court documents, Taylor engaged in a scheme between February 2017 and May 2021 in connection with diagnostic laboratory testing, including urine drug testing and tests for respiratory illnesses during the COVID-19 pandemic that were medically unnecessary, not ordered by medical providers, and/or not provided as represented.
According to the indictment, Taylor controlled and directed multiple diagnostic laboratories, and used those labs to submit more than $100 million in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare.
Taylor’s sentencing will be announced at a separate hearing expected to take place in approximately four months. U.S. Attorney David Clay Fowlkes of the Western District of Arkansas made the announcement.
The FBI, Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation investigated the case. This case was initiated in coordination with the Health Care Fraud Unit’s COVID-19 Interagency Working Group, which is chaired by the National Rapid Response Strike Force and organizes efforts to address illegal activity involving healthcare programs during the pandemic.