The U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday announced a major multi-agency national bust against 60 people for their alleged participation in the illegal prescribing and distributing of opioids and other dangerous narcotics and for health care fraud schemes.
The DOJ announcement is available here.
The defendants are from 11 federal districts and include 31 doctors, seven pharmacists, eight nurse practitioners, and seven other licensed medical professionals, including Ohio.
“The opioid epidemic is the deadliest drug crisis in American history, and Appalachia has suffered the consequences more than perhaps any other region,” Attorney General William P. Barr said. “But the Department of Justice is doing its part to help end this crisis. One of the Department’s most promising new initiatives is the Criminal Division’s Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force, which began its work in December. Just four months later, this team of federal agents and 14 prosecutors has charged 60 defendants for alleged crimes related to millions of prescription opioids. I am grateful to the Criminal Division, their U.S. Attorney partners, and to the members of the strike force for this outstanding work that holds the promise of saving many lives in Appalachian communities.”
In the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force’s Southern District of Ohio, six individuals, including two doctors and three registered pharmacists were charged with several counts. Those counts included unlawful distribution of controlled substances and conspiracy to obtain controlled substances by fraud.
In one Ohio case, a doctor who is alleged to have been at one time the highest prescriber of controlled substances in the state, and several pharmacists are charged with operating an alleged “pill mill” in Dayton. According to the indictment, between October 2015 and October 2017 alone, the pharmacy allegedly dispensed over 1.75 million pills. These cases were brought with assistance from the FBI, DEA, and HHS-OIG, as well as the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit; the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Ohio; the Ohio Board of Pharmacy and the Ohio Medical Board.
The press release also mentions arrests in the Western District of Tennessee, where 15 were charged, involving eight doctors and several other medical professionals.
In one case, a nurse practitioner who branded himself the “Rock Doc,” allegedly prescribed powerful and dangerous combinations of opioids and benzodiazepines, sometimes in exchange for sexual favors; over approximately three years, the doctor allegedly prescribed approximately 500,000 hydrocodone pills, 300,000 oxycodone pills, 1,500 fentanyl patches, and more than 600,000 benzodiazepine pills. In another case, a nurse practitioner charged with conspiracy to unlawfully distribute controlled substances allegedly prescribed over 500,000 Hydrocodone pills, approximately 300,000 Oxycodone pills, and approximately 300,000 benzodiazepine pills (mostly Alprazolam), along with a myriad of other controlled substances. In another case, a physician charged with controlled substances and health care fraud violations allegedly prescribed approximately 300,000 hydrocodone pills, 200,000 oxycodone pills, 2,500 fentanyl patches, and 180,000 benzodiazepine pills, and prescribed medically unnecessary durable medical equipment that was billed to Medicare. Another doctor charged with controlled substances violations allegedly prescribed approximately 4.2 million opioid pills, sometimes in dangerous combinations with other drugs, such as benzodiazepines, and prescribed opioids to known addicts. In addition to assistance provided by the FBI, DEA, and HHS-OIG, these cases were brought in connection with assistance from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, the Tennessee Office of Inspector General, and the West Tennessee Drug Task Force (28th District).
Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski announces charges against 60 people, involving 32 million pills pic.twitter.com/s8JYPay5V4
— US Attorney S. Ohio (@SDOHnews) April 17, 2019
Another DOJ press release detailed a number of arrests in East Tennessee. That press release is available here.
In the Eastern District of Tennessee, a total of eight individuals, including five doctors, a nurse practitioner, a physician’s assistant, and an office manager were charged in four cases. Four doctors, a nurse practitioner and a physician’s assistant were charged with the unlawful distribution of opioids. Two doctors were charged with health care fraud violations. Three of these cases relate to alleged pill mill operations in the Eastern District of Tennessee.
Included in the charges announced today are the following indictments, which are on file with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee:
On April 2, 2019, a federal grand jury returned an indictment against Dr. Charles Brooks, 61, of Maryville, Tennessee, charging him with one count of conspiracy to distribute Schedule III, IV and V drugs as well as one count of healthcare fraud for aiding and abetting a false statement related to health care matters.
This case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG. Assistant U.S. Attorney Anne-Marie Svolto will represent the United States in court proceedings.
On April 16, 2019, a federal grand jury returned an indictment against Dr. Stephen Mynatt, 64, of Knoxville Tennessee, and Dr. David Newman, 58, of Maryville, Tennessee, charging them with conspiracy to distribute Schedule II controlled drugs. Mynatt was also charged with two counts of distribution of Schedule II drugs. Both Mynatt and Newman were affiliated with Tennessee Valley Pain Specialists.
This case was investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG, DEA, and TBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Anne-Marie Svolto, along with DOJ Trial Attorneys Drew Bradylyons and Louis Manzo, will represent the United States in court proceedings.
On April 16, 2019, a federal grand jury returned an indictment against Dr. Henry Babenco, 58, of Paducah, Kentucky; Sharon Naylor, 53, of Jacksboro, Tennessee; Alicia Taylor, 29, of Oneida, Tennessee; and Gregory Madron, 54, of Jacksboro, Tennessee, charging all of them with conspiracy to distribute Schedule II controlled drugs. Naylor and Babenco were also charged with money laundering. Babenco, Naylor, Taylor, and Madron were all associated with LaFollette Wellness Center.
This case was investigated by the DEA and IRS-Criminal Investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorney Anne-Marie Svolto, along with DOJ Trial Attorney Scott Armstrong, will represent the United States in court proceedings.
On April 16, 2019, a federal grand jury indicted Dr. Harrison Yang, 75, of Manchester, Tennessee, with healthcare fraud violations.
A third DOJ press release mentioned arrests in the Middle District of Tennessee. That announcement is available here.
Dr. Darrell R. Rinehart, 63, of Indianapolis, Indiana, formerly of Columbia, Tennessee, was indicted on 19 counts of prescribing a Schedule II controlled substance outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose, between December 4, 2014 and January 21, 2016. According to the indictment, four patients died who were actively being seen by Dr. Rinehart. The indictment also alleges that on November 27, 2018, the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners suspended Rinehart’s medical license until May 31, 2019, at which time his license will expire and he will be prohibited from renewing it or applying for a new license.
Dr. Bowdoin G. Smith, 64, of Carthage, Tennessee, was indicted on two counts of prescribing a Schedule II controlled substance outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose, in January and February 2019. The indictment alleges that in October 2012, Smith entered a consent order with the State of Tennessee Department of Health, Board of Osteopathic Examination based on stipulated facts that Smith, among other things, prescribed controlled substances “not in the course of professional practice, or not in good faith to relieve pain and suffering, or not to cure an ailment, physical infirmity or disease,” and Smith’s treatment “routinely included prescribing narcotics and other medications and controlled substances in amounts and/or for durations not medically necessary, advisable, or justified for a diagnosed condition.” Smith’s medical license was placed on probation for a period of not less than three years, beginning on October 11, 2012. According to the indictment, On November 4, 2015, the Board lifted the probation and Smith again began illegally prescribing highly addictive opioids, continuing through February 2019.
Dr. Lawrence J. Valdez, 50, of Hendersonville, Tennessee, was indicted on 18 counts of prescribing a Schedule II controlled substance outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose, between June 2016 and March 2017.
Dr. Timothy Abbott, 62, of Nashville, a Podiatrist, was indicted on seven counts of prescribing a Schedule II controlled substance outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose, between January 2015 and January 2019.
Heather Marks, 36, of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, a Nurse Practitioner, was indicted on four counts of prescribing a Schedule II controlled substance outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose, between December 2016 and February 2018.
Brian Richey, 37, of Cookeville, Tennessee, Daniel Seeley, 58, of Batesville, Mississippi, and Jonathan White, 49, of Tullahoma, Tennessee, all Nurse Practitioners, were indicted on three counts of healthcare fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud. According to the indictment, Richey, Seeley and White were employed by MedManagement Inc., which managed Pain MD located in Franklin, Tennessee. Pain MD operated pain and wellness clinics throughout Middle Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. Between 2010 and continuing through 2015, the indictment alleges that Richey, Seeley and White provided services to patients, namely “Tendon Origin Injections,” which were neither medically necessary nor anatomically possible and provided medically unnecessary durable medical equipment and then submitted fraudulent claims to Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE. These services were provided to further the company’s business model by increasing revenues and to personally enrich Pain MD providers and executives. The indictment further alleges that Richey, Seeley and White trained other providers on methods to increase productivity, including methods on how to control the patient and allow them to treat patients with such medically unnecessary injections and threatening to dismiss them as patients and stop writing prescriptions for narcotic pain medication if they did not comply. According to the indictment, Richey, Seeley, White and others submitted more than $3.5 million in false claims to Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE.
Finally, John Polston, 58, of Tompkinsville, Kentucky, was indicted on 21 counts of dispensing Schedule II and Schedule IV controlled substances, outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose, between April 27, 2017 and December 6, 2017. The indictment alleges that Polston was the Pharmacist-in-Charge of Oakley Pharmacy, Inc. d/b/a Dale Hollow Pharmacy in Celina, Tennessee. On March 6, 2017, Polston entered into an agreement with the DEA that required compliance with federal, state and local laws pertaining to the dispensation of controlled substances. The indictment alleges that until approximately February 2019, Polston repeatedly and consistently dispensed controlled substances, including highly addictive opioids, that were not for a legitimate medical purpose or in the usual course of professional practice.
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Editor’s note: The blockquote with the reference to the “Rock Doc” originally said “doctor.” It has been corrected to “nurse practitioner.”