The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) reports that more than 115 Americans die each day from overdosing on opioids. (This includes the misuse and addiction to opioids such as prescription pain relievers, heroin and synthetic opioids.) A Norwalk, Ohio doctor has unfortunately contributed to those staggering statistics through a Medicaid fraud scheme that involved prescribing unneeded addictive drugs to his patients, many of whom he never examined.
Over about six months, the doctor and his co-defendants distributed prescriptions for Schedule II and III drugs, many times when the doctor was not in the office. (Schedule II drugs include oxycodone, fentanyl, morphine, opium and codeine. Abuse of schedule III drugs could lead to physical or psychological dependence.) Patients seen were not examined by a licensed doctor to determine if the prescriptions were appropriate for their “condition.”
A confidential informant paid a visit to the doctor’s office and was rewarded a prescription for a drug that is used in the treatment of opioid dependence that should work in tandem with a treatment program including counseling and psychosocial support. (The informant visited the doctor’s medical practice twice, was not given an exam either time and was given two prescriptions that were not needed. Apparently, there was no mention of a supporting counseling program.)
An investigation was opened by the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy, State Medical Board of Ohio and the Norwalk Police Department to look into the doctor’s questionable prescribing practices. (Possessing a search warrant, state and local law enforcement agencies raided the doctor’s office and seized evidence including patient charts, financial records and prescription drugs.)
The 67-year-old doctor pleaded guilty to 20 felonies and was convicted on 13 counts of illegal processing of drug documents, six charges of trafficking in drugs near a school, and one count of Medicaid fraud. (He was dolling out pre-completed prescriptions like candy, then the prescriptions were being sold on the street.) He received a sentence of 47 months in prison –just one month shy of four years – and was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and restitution of $69,078 with a female co-defendant who previously worked for him. (Supposedly, if he is found to be indigent, the fine will be waived. What about all of his victims who became indigent as a result of his trafficking? Perhaps the fine should be a lot more than $5,000.)
As part of a plea deal, 22 charges were dropped and the crooked doctor was released on a $50,000 bond to a nursing and rehabilitation complex in a wheelchair on terms of house arrest. (I guess the justice system determined it would be hard for the defendant to outrun the law in a wheelchair.) He was also required to surrender his license to practice medicine. (It turns out that the doctor previously had his medical license suspended on multiple occasions.)
The CDC reports that prescription opioid misuse in the U.S. amounts to $78.5 billion a year. (This includes healthcare costs, lost productivity, addiction treatment and criminal justice fees.) Congratulations to the law enforcement team who chased this fraudster from Ohio down and put a stop to his Medicaid fraud scheme that contributed to the staggering statistics related to prescription abuse in the United States.
Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, “Doctor, 67, gets 4 years prison,” published by Norwalk Reflector on December 15, 2017.
A doctor convicted of distributing pre-completed prescriptions for suboxone has surrendered his license to practice medicine.
Robert S. Reeves Jr., 67, was sentenced to 47 months in prison — one month short of four years — Thursday. Huron County Common Pleas Judge Jim Conway also ordered the defendant to pay $69,078 in restitution and fined him $5,000; the fine could be waived if Reeves is determined to be indigent.