Savannah native Jessica Linton (Billingsley) seemingly had it all... Girl Scout leader and avid church member, mother, wife, loyal volunteer and dedicated employee. She spent her days brimming with gratefulness for the life she had been so blessed to receive. Linton’s moral compass had never led her astray – do the right thing, and you never have to worry about being on the wrong side of the law. Or so she thought. Will there be Justice for Jessica?
Savannah native Jessica Linton (Billingsley) seemingly had it all… Girl Scout leader and avid church member, mother, wife, loyal volunteer and dedicated employee. She spent her days brimming with gratefulness for the life she had been so blessed to receive. Linton’s moral compass had never led her astray – do the right thing, and you never have to worry about being on the wrong side of the law. Or so she thought. Will there be Justice for Jessica?
That illusion was permanently altered on March 1, 2020, when a federal jury returned a guilty verdict on one count of conspiracy, 13 counts of healthcare fraud, three counts of mail fraud, and seven counts of aggravated identity theft. A staggering list of felonies carrying a sentence of decades in prison.
Linton’s journey began back in 2014, when a former co-worker, (John) Jeremy Adams, approached her about a position with a compounding pharmacy he had recently founded. They had worked well together previously, and Linton, as the breadwinner, was worried about recent layoffs at her current company, so she happily accepted. She started out as the sole customer service contact, and soon was running a full-time call center and billing operation to handle the influx of orders. The pharmacy itself, Global Compounding Pharmacy, was based in Alabama, but the call center was established in Clearwater, FL., where Linton had lived since moving from Savannah in 2011. Because of these logistics, Linton had little contact with the Global Pharmacy team and had no knowledge of what was brewing at Alabama HQ.
Unbeknownst to Linton, Jeremy Adams (founder and CEO) was perpetuating a massive fraud on insurance companies and government agencies with the help of a select group of sales representatives and the hand-picked top brass he had installed. This included a $50 million illegal prescription drug billing scheme that Adams used to fuel his out-of-control pill and gambling addiction.
“Despite not a single witness pointing the finger at Jessica, nor a single dollar of the $50 million that was stolen being traced back to her, the jury convicted Jessica on all counts. Guilty as charged.”
The first clue that anything was amiss was when the FBI raided the call center in 2016, leaving Linton aghast, certain they must be mistaken. When it became apparent the authorities had indeed stumbled upon a crime in progress, Linton jumped into action. She immediately agreed to help the FBI piece together the billing system, allowing them an inside look into operations, and ultimately saving them hundreds of hours of investigation. Linton did this without a second thought — as innocent people do — traveling to their field office in Alabama for days at time, all at her own expense and without an attorney. As she had not participated in any crime, nor was she privy to anyone else doing so, Linton naively believed the right thing to do was to help the FBI with their case. She felt this was her patriotic duty as an American citizen, as many would, not understanding that the wheels of justice can often turn in the opposite direction.
After spending three years assisting the FBI, including willingly handing over her personal cell phone to be “mirrored” (essentially giving the agents an exact copy of all communications) she herself was the 25th person indicted in this sprawling case. Though shocked to her core, Linton still believed that justice would prevail, and the system would work as intended. When the prosecutor threatened her with years in prison as an inducement to sign a plea agreement, Linton refused on principle. As a Christian, she believed it was sinful to give false statements in a court of law and would not lie to a federal judge — even if that meant spending her life savings fighting for her innocence.
Though several attorneys had shared that the government had no case to speak of against her, they all cautioned, “but the government rarely loses.” They lose so rarely, a defendant only has a two percent chance of being acquitted, which is why 96 percent of cases take a plea agreement.
But Linton would not be swayed. She still believed her innocence would save her.
“When the prosecutor threatened her with years in prison as an inducement to sign a plea agreement, Jessica refused on principle. As a Christian, she believed it was sinful to give false statements in a court of law and would not lie to a federal judge — even if that meant spending her life savings fighting for her innocence.”
During her one-week trial, witness after witness took the stand and testified that Linton was not a part of the criminal enterprise and they had no knowledge of her ever being apprised of the fraud. When the lead pharmacist and mastermind of the conspiracy testified, he clearly stated he never told Linton what he was orchestrating, and without specific pharmacy training, she would have no idea that what he was having her do on a day-to-day basis was illegal. She was simply doing her job – trusting her superiors were doing theirs.
Despite not a single witness pointing the finger at Linton, nor a single dollar of the $50 million that was stolen being traced back to her, the jury convicted Linton on all counts. Guilty as charged.
When sentencing arrived in the Spring of 2021, Linton still held steadfastly to her faith that the judge would see she had been wronged and reflect that belief in his decree. Instead, he sentenced her to 11 years in federal prison for a crime she didn’t commit.
Stunned, Linton and her family were speechless. Even the architects of the fraud only received 14 years and eight years respectively, with those that testified serving sentences varying from 15 – 24 months. Linton’s attorney was equally flabbergasted at the harshness of the sentence.
On June 9, 2021, Linton self-surrendered to a women’s federal prison camp in Marianna, FL., to await the outcome of her appeal, with a ruling likely 18 months to two years away. She was forced to leave behind her family, including her precious nine-year-old daughter who in no way could understand why the government was taking her mommy away. But despite the horrendous circumstances, Linton remains steadfast in her faith, believing she can still create good from something so devastating. She runs a daily Bible study and regularly counsels the women on surviving the emotional toll prison takes on them and their families.
Sadly, she is not the first innocent person to be falsely convicted, nor will she be the last. Could you be next?