A fraud scheme that involved a Houston couple and their businesses has resulted in a combined 35 years in federal prison for them. One of the businesses, a restaurant and jazz lounge that was popular among the African-American community in the city, has changed its ownership and is trying to recover from the scandal.
Why Houston Black Power Couple John Cruise and LaShonia Johnson Got Sentenced to Decades in Prison
At the core of this story, is the saying “the FEDS are always watching”. The couple, John Cruise and LaShonia Johnson, were the owners of the Phil & Derek’s Restaurant and Jazz Lounge and the Assurance Consolidated Pharmacy. Cruise also had another business, the Injured Federal Workers Advocate Association (IFWAA), which he used to cheat the government.
Cruise and Johnson collaborated with 11 other people to submit false and fraudulent claims to the United States Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (DOL-OWCP) and TRICARE, a health care program for military personnel.
They offered free support to injured federal workers and claimants who joined IFWAA, and then prescribed them compounded and other drugs that they did not need or want. They paid kickbacks to patient recruiters and physicians, and chose the drugs based on the amount of reimbursement they could get.
The group stole almost $126 million from 2014 to 2018 in this way. The scheme involved another pharmacy owner, a doctor, two pharmacists, and three patient recruiters. Four more defendants were also charged by the Justice Department.
Cruise and Johnson received the longest sentences for their major role in the scheme. Cruise was given 20 years in prison and ordered to pay about $32 million in restitution. His wife, Johnson, got 15 years in prison and had to pay $32 million in restitution as well.
The couple’s downfall caused a lot of reactions on social media. Some people expressed their disbelief and disappointment at their crimes. Others pointed out the racial disparity in the justice system. Others said they were glad that the restaurant did not close down because of its former owners’ actions.
Phil & Derek’s also started a new campaign with the new owner. The restaurant’s fans were happy that it still served good food and music. Some customers said they were looking forward to visiting it soon. Others said they enjoyed their recent experience there.