GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A Mississippi coast doctor convicted for his role in a multi-million dollar pharmacy fraud scheme will stay behind bars until his sentencing in May.
An order denying bail for Coast physician Dr. Albert Diaz was signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge John Gargiulo following a hearing Tuesday.
Diaz was back in court this week, seeking to become a free man before his sentencing in May. He was convicted earlier this month on 16 counts of writing prescriptions for patients he never saw.
Prosecutors say it was part of a plan to defraud the Tricare program of millions of dollars, although Diaz never personally profited. Two others have already pleaded guilty in the case.
The doctor's supporters came out Tuesday in great numbers Tuesday, more than 100 of them, many wearing white ribbons. Because of space limitations, dozens had to wait in the hallway while the hearing was underway in Gulfport federal court. Some were moved to tears after seeing Diaz using a walker, dressed in prison blues and wearing shackles.
They were solidly behind the doctor, including Billy Cruthirds. "I have known Dr. Diaz both professionally and personally for over 45 years. I know him to be an honorable man and I believe in him and that's why I'm here to support him," he said.
Others, like Lynda Loper, echoed those sentiments. She said, "I worked with Dr. Diaz until I retired in 2011. And he's a wonderful man, honest and he doesn't deserve this."
Many were skeptical of the government's motives.
Jon Rivera talked about that. He stated, "I feel this is prosecutorial exuberance in this matter. They just want to get their notches on their pistols in this matter. It's totally unfair and unjust for the doctor and his family."
Gary Frederickson had the same opinion, saying "I think he's been set up. I think the system is out to get him as an example. I don't think the doc did anything wrong except to try to correct his error in the beginning."
One other thing troubled the doctor's supporters, including Bobby Mahoney. "He didn't take any financial gain. You know what I mean. And so to put yourself in jail for 30 or 40 years and no financial gain. It just doesn't seem right," said Mahoney.
During testimony, defense attorney John Colette argued that since a new trial is a possibility, Diaz should be granted bond. Prosecutors disagreed, claiming a new trial is unlikely.
Diaz is scheduled to be sentenced on May 22nd in Hattiesburg. He faces up to 305 years in prison and fines in excess of $7 million. His attorney will officially file a motion for a new trial later this week.