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Florida Compounding Pharmacy Reaches $21 Million Settlement to End FCA Kickback Suit

George IndestBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On September 19, 2019, a Florida compounding pharmacy reached a $21.4 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in the Southern District of Florida to resolve claims they orchestrated a $70 million kickback scheme. Diabetic Care Rx LLC, which does business as Patient Care America, and private equity firm Riordan Lewis & Haden Inc. agreed to pay to bring the False Claims Act (FCA) lawsuit to a close.

According to the DOJ, the Florida pharmacy, two executives and the private equity firm schemed to recruit beneficiaries of Tricare for medically unnecessary prescriptions such as expensive pain creams.

Details of the Case.

The DOJ claimed PCA used marketers to help recruit beneficiaries of Tricare. They allegedly paid kickbacks to solicit medically unnecessary prescriptions for expensive compounded drugs that were filled by the pharmacy and then charged to Tricare.

As a result, the pharmacy allegedly billed Tricare about $68 million for compounded drugs over eight months in 2014 and 2015.
For more information, click here to read the press release issued by the DOJ.

The lawsuit resolved by the settlement was originally filed under the whistleblower (or “qui tam”) provisions of the False Claims Act by two former employees of PCA. To learn more about whistleblower or qui tam cases, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA, DOH and FDA investigations, qui tam and whistleblower cases, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections, and audits. The Firm also represents both plaintiffs (whistle blowers or relators) and defendants in False Claims Act (whistleblower or qui tam) cases. The firm’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Stawiki, Steve. “Pharmacy, PE Fund Ink $21M Deal To End FCA Kickback Suit.” Law360. (September 20, 2019). Web.

Bolado, Carolina. “Pharmacy, PE Fund Near Deal To End Feds’ FCA Kickback Suit.” Law360. (July 1, 2019). Web.

“Compounding Pharmacy, Two of Its Executives, and Private Equity Firm Agree to Pay $21.36 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations.” Florida Record. (September 24, 2019). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: legal representation for pharmacists, legal representation for pharmacies, pharmacy defense attorney, pharmacist defense lawyer, representation for False Claims Act investigation, False Claims Act representation, FCA defense lawyer, board representation for pharmacists, board representation for pharmacies, board representation for physicians, Board of Pharmacy investigation representation, legal representation for board investigations, administrative hearing defense attorney, representation for administrative hearings, administrative complaint representation, Board of Medicine representation, Board of Medicine attorney, Board of Medicine defense attorney, representation for Board of Medicine investigations, representation for Board of Medicine complaints, DEA hearing defense attorney, DEA investigation attorney, DEA hearing representation, DEA investigation representation, representation for DEA investigations against physicians, representation for pill mill allegations, representation for allegations of overprescribing, representation for overbilling, DOJ defense lawyer, representation for DOJ investigations, representation for health care professionals, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Doctor Sentenced to 40 Years For Alleged Interstate Pill Mill

By Carole C. Schriefer, R.N., J.D.

On October 2, 2019, a physician in Virginia received a 40-year prison sentence for illegally prescribing more than half a million opioid pills over 19 months. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia handed down the sentence to Joel Smithers, who reportedly operated a “pill mill” out of Virginia, according to authorities. In addition to prison time, he was given an $86,000 fine and will serve three years of supervised release upon the completion of his prison time, according to court documents.

The sentence is lighter than it could have been. He was facing up to life in prison and a fine of more than $200 million, according to officials at the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ). Click here to view the court’s sentencing document in full.

The Alleged Interstate Pill Mill Operation.

In May 2019, Smithers was convicted by a jury on more than 859 federal drug charges, including one count of possessing with the intent to distribute controlled substances and one count of maintaining a place for the purpose of unlawfully distributing controlled substances. Additionally, he was convicted on hundreds of counts of unlawfully distributing a controlled substance without a legitimate medical purpose or beyond the bounds of medical practice.

When he opened his Virginia practice in 2015, officials said he prescribed controlled substances to “every patient in his practice, resulting in over 500,000 Schedule II controlled substances being distributed.” Authorities say that he allegedly ran an operation that was less a medical practice and more an interstate drug distribution network.

Smithers was able to rake in over $700,000 in cash and credit card payments before the search warrant was executed at his office on March 7, 2017. Click here to read the press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Virginia.

To learn about a similar case involving two Florida doctors, click here.


The Problems I See in This Case.

I tell you that I take issue with many of the cases of this sort. I do not know enough about the actual facts of this physician’s case, but I can comment generally based on other similar cases I have had in the past. The government, both state and federal, has come down like a hammer on individual physicians and pharmacists in its over-zealous campaign to crack down on opioids. Many physicians and pharmacists, just trying to do a good job and legitimately treat their patients, are being caught up and persecuted. Chronic pain patients, many of whom are disabled veterans or people injured on the job, are unable to find physicians to treat them anymore or, if they can, any pharmacists willing to fill their prescriptions.

All sorts of under-handed techniques are used to try to make a case against conscientious health professionals who are merely trying to do their jobs. These do include the tactic seen in the case we are reporting on, which I call “bean counting.” The government comes in and, instead of proving how many allegedly illegal prescriptions were written or how many patients the physician gave the prescriptions to, breaks these out into the number of pills. This greatly exaggerates the case and these large numbers alone make it look like the doctor (or pharmacist) is doing something wrong or extremely way out of the norm.

For example, if a patient was receiving a low dose of a pain killer, say 10 mg Oxycodone every 4 to 6 hours, prescribed for four times a day, the ordinary monthly prescription for this medication alone (and such patients rarely receive one type of medication alone) this equates to 120 pills per month. If 10 mg pills are not available and/or the prescription is filled with 5 mg pills, instead, this is 240 pills a month. A years’ worth is 1,440 pills or 2,880 pills for just one patient. If the physician has 50 similar patients, this is 72,000 pills or 144,000 pills a year that the physician is writing and a pharmacy or pharmacies are filling.

This does not seem extreme or unusual to me, at all, and these amounts are on the low side. Yet just as government agencies love to inflate the “street value” or contraband drugs they seize, they love to break down the number of opioids a physician writes so it seems to a layperson to be extraordinarily large. Furthermore, a pain management physician or any other kind of physician cannot survive with just 50 patients a month. It is far more likely for a physician to have a thousand (1,000) or more patients a month. I call this type of numerical exaggeration “bean counting.” But it has put a number of physicians and pharmacists in jail.

Judges should not allow such exaggerated numbers to be introduced into evidence in the absence of further information that places them in context. It is unfairly prejudicial to the defendant to do so.


Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with DEA Cases.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm are experienced in handling Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) cases, board of medicine cases and board of pharmacy cases regarding allegations of over-prescribing and illegal prescribing. If you are currently being investigated or facing other adverse actions by the DEA contact one of our attorneys by calling (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001. You can also visit our website for more information at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Booker, Brakkton. “Doctor Gets 40 Years For Illegally Prescribing More Than Half A Million Opioid Doses.” NPR. (October 2, 2019). Web.

“Virginia doctor could get life in prison today for prescribing 500,000 opioid pills.” RTV6. (October 2, 2019). Web.

Almasy, Steve. “Virginia doctor who illegally prescribed 500,000 opioid pills sentenced to 40 years in prison.” CNN. (October 2, 2019). Web.

About the Author: Carole C. Schriefer is an attorney and registered nurse. She practices with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its regional office is in the Northern Colorado, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 155 East Boardwalk Drive, Fort Collins, Colorado 80525. Phone: (970) 416-7456. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area.

KeyWords: legal representation for pain management physicians and pharmacists, legal representation for pharmacies, pharmacy defense attorney, pain management physician defense attorney, pharmacist defense lawyer, pain management physician defense lawyer, representation for False Claims Act (FCA) investigation, False Claims Act representation, FCA defense lawyer, board representation for pharmacists, board representation for pharmacies, board representation for physicians, Board of Pharmacy investigation representation, legal representation for board investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) defense attorney, board of medicine attorney, board of pharmacy attorney, Department of Health investigations, pain clinics, over prescribing painkillers, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigation attorney, The Health Law Firm, administrative hearing defense attorney, DEA order to show cause (OSC) defense lawyer, legal representation for administrative hearings, administrative complaint representation, Board of Medicine representation, Board of Medicine attorney, Board of Medicine defense attorney, representation for Board of Medicine investigations, representation for Board of Medicine complaints, DEA hearing defense attorney, DEA investigation attorney, DEA hearing representation, DEA investigation representation, representation for DEA investigations against physicians, representation for pill mill allegations, representation for allegations of overprescribing, representation for overbilling, DOJ defense lawyer, representation for DOJ investigations, representation for health care professionals, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, DEA order to show cause (OSC) defense attorney

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2019-11-06T20:48:18+00:00November 6th, 2019|Categories: Colorado Health Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Physician Sentenced to 40 Years in Prison For Illegally Prescribing Opioid Pills

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On October 2, 2019, a Virginia doctor received a 40-year prison sentence for illegally prescribing more than half a million opioid pills over 19 months. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia handed down the sentence to Joel Smithers, who was reported to have operated a “pill mill” out of Virginia, according to authorities. In addition to prison time, he was given an $86,000 fine and will serve three years of supervised release upon the completion of his prison time, according to court documents.

The sentence is lighter than it could have been. He was facing up to life in prison and a fine of more than $200 million, according to officials at the U.S. Justice Department. Click here to view the court’s sentencing document in full.

Alleged Interstate Pill Mill.

In May 2019, Smithers was convicted by a jury on more than 859 federal drug charges, including one count of possessing with the intent to distribute controlled substances and one count of maintaining a place for the purpose of unlawfully distributing controlled substances. Additionally, he was also convicted on hundreds of counts of unlawfully distributing a controlled substance without a legitimate medical purpose or beyond the bounds of medical practice.

When he opened his Virginia practice in 2015, Justice Department officials said he prescribed controlled substances to “every patient in his practice, resulting in over 500,000 Schedule II controlled substances being distributed.” Authorities say that he allegedly ran an operation that was less a medical practice and more an interstate drug distribution network.

Smithers was able to rake in over $700,000 in cash and credit card payments before the search warrant was executed at his office on March 7, 2017. Click here to read the press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Virginia.

To learn about a similar case involving two Florida doctors, click here.

The Problems I See.

I tell you that I take issue with many of the cases of this sort. I do not know enough about the actual facts of this physician’s case, but I can comment generally based on other similar cases I have had in the past. The government, both state and federal, has come down like a hammer on individual physicians and pharmacists in its over-zealous campaign to crack down on opioids. Many physicians and pharmacists, just trying to do a good job and legitimately treat their patients, are being caught up and persecuted. Chronic pain patients, many of whom are disabled veterans or people injured on the job, are unable to find physicians to treat them anymore or, if they can, any pharmacists willing to fill their prescriptions.

All sorts of under-handed techniques are used to try to make a case against conscientious health professionals who are merely trying to do their jobs. These do include the tactic seen in the case we are reporting on, which I call “bean counting.” The government comes in and, instead of proving how many allegedly illegal prescriptions were written or how many patients the physician gave the prescriptions to, breaks these out into the number of pills. This greatly exaggerates the case and these large numbers alone make it look like the doctor (or pharmacist) is doing something wrong or extremely way out of the norm.

For example, if a patient was receiving a low dose of a pain killer, say 10 mg Oxycodone every 4 to 6 hours, prescribed for four times a day, the ordinary monthly prescription for this medication alone (and such patients rarely receive one type of medication alone) this equates to 120 pills per month. If 10 mg pills are not available and/or the prescription is filled with 5 mg pills, instead, this is 240 pills a month. A years’ worth is 1,440 pills or 2,880 pills for just one patient. If the physician has 50 similar patients, this is 72,000 pills or 144,000 pills a year that the physician is writing and a pharmacy or pharmacies are filling.

This does not seem extreme or unusual to me, at all, and these amounts are on the low side. Yet just as government agencies love to inflate the “street value” or contraband drugs they seize, they love to break down the number of opioids a physician writes so it seems to a layperson to be extraordinarily large. Furthermore, a pain management physician or any other kind of physician cannot survive with just 50 patients a month. It is far more likely for a physician to have a thousand (1,000) or more patients a month. I call this type of numerical exaggeration “bean counting.” But it has put a number of physicians and pharmacists in jail.

Judges should not allow such exaggerated numbers to be introduced into evidence in the absence of further information that places them in context. It is unfairly prejudicial to the defendant to do so.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with DEA Cases.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm are experienced in handling Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) cases, board of medicine cases and board of pharmacy cases regarding allegations of over-prescribing and illegal prescribing. If you are currently being investigated or facing other adverse actions by the DEA contact one of our attorneys by calling (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001. You can also visit our website for more information at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Booker, Brakkton. “Doctor Gets 40 Years For Illegally Prescribing More Than Half A Million Opioid Doses.” NPR. (October 2, 2019). Web.

“Virginia doctor could get life in prison today for prescribing 500,000 opioid pills.” RTV6. (October 2, 2019). Web.

Almasy, Steve. “Virginia doctor who illegally prescribed 500,000 opioid pills sentenced to 40 years in prison.” CNN. (October 2, 2019). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: legal representation for pain management physicians and pharmacists, legal representation for pharmacies, pharmacy defense attorney, pain management physician defense attorney, pharmacist defense lawyer, pain management physician defense lawyer, representation for False Claims Act (FCA) investigation, False Claims Act representation, FCA defense lawyer, board representation for pharmacists, board representation for pharmacies, board representation for physicians, Board of Pharmacy investigation representation, legal representation for board investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) defense attorney, board of medicine attorney, board of pharmacy attorney, Department of Health investigations, pain clinics, over prescribing painkillers, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigation attorney, The Health Law Firm, administrative hearing defense attorney, DEA order to show cause (OSC) defense lawyer, legal representation for administrative hearings, administrative complaint representation, Board of Medicine representation, Board of Medicine attorney, Board of Medicine defense attorney, representation for Board of Medicine investigations, representation for Board of Medicine complaints, DEA hearing defense attorney, DEA investigation attorney, DEA hearing representation, DEA investigation representation, representation for DEA investigations against physicians, representation for pill mill allegations, representation for allegations of overprescribing, representation for overbilling, DOJ defense lawyer, representation for DOJ investigations, representation for health care professionals, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, DEA order to show cause (OSC) defense attorney

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2019-11-06T20:33:34+00:00November 6th, 2019|Categories: Pharmacy Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Compounding Pharmacy Agrees to Pay $21 Million to End FCA Kickback Suit

Headshot of attorney George IndestBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On September 19, 2019, a Florida compounding pharmacy reached a $21.4 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in the Southern District of Florida to resolve claims they orchestrated a $70 million kickback scheme. Diabetic Care Rx LLC, which does business as Patient Care America, and private equity firm Riordan Lewis & Haden Inc. agreed to pay to bring the False Claims Act (FCA) lawsuit to a close.

According to the DOJ, the Florida pharmacy, two executives and the private equity firm schemed to recruit beneficiaries of Tricare for medically unnecessary prescriptions such as expensive pain creams.

Details of the Case.

The DOJ claimed PCA used marketers to help recruit beneficiaries of Tricare. They allegedly paid kickbacks to solicit medically unnecessary prescriptions for expensive compounded drugs that were filled by the pharmacy and then charged to Tricare.

As a result, the pharmacy allegedly billed Tricare about $68 million for compounded drugs over eight months in 2014 and 2015.
For more information, click here to read the press release issued by the DOJ.

The lawsuit resolved by the settlement was originally filed under the whistleblower (or “qui tam”) provisions of the False Claims Act by two former employees of PCA. To learn more about whistleblower or qui tam cases, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA, DOH and FDA investigations, qui tam and whistleblower cases, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections, and audits. The Firm also represents both plaintiffs (whistle blowers or relators) and defendants in False Claims Act (whistleblower or qui tam) cases. The firm’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Stawiki, Steve. “Pharmacy, PE Fund Ink $21M Deal To End FCA Kickback Suit.” Law360. (September 20, 2019). Web.

Bolado, Carolina. “Pharmacy, PE Fund Near Deal To End Feds’ FCA Kickback Suit.” Law360. (July 1, 2019). Web.

“Compounding Pharmacy, Two of Its Executives, and Private Equity Firm Agree to Pay $21.36 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations.” Florida Record. (September 24, 2019). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: legal representation for pharmacists, legal representation for pharmacies, pharmacy defense attorney, pharmacist defense lawyer, representation for False Claims Act investigation, False Claims Act representation, FCA defense lawyer, board representation for pharmacists, board representation for pharmacies, board representation for physicians, Board of Pharmacy investigation representation, legal representation for board investigations, administrative hearing defense attorney, representation for administrative hearings, administrative complaint representation, Board of Medicine representation, Board of Medicine attorney, Board of Medicine defense attorney, representation for Board of Medicine investigations, representation for Board of Medicine complaints, DEA hearing defense attorney, DEA investigation attorney, DEA hearing representation, DEA investigation representation, representation for DEA investigations against physicians, representation for pill mill allegations, representation for allegations of overprescribing, representation for overbilling, DOJ defense lawyer, representation for DOJ investigations, representation for health care professionals, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Miami Man to Remain Jailed for Trial in Nation’s Largest Medicare Fraud Case

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On December 3, 2018, a Florida judge ruled that a Miami businessman who has been jailed for more than two years on $1 billion health care fraud charges, must remain in custody through his trial next year. U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola Jr. found no violation of his due process rights and denied Philip Esformes’ motion to dismiss several money laundering charges.

Trial Date is Set.

A February 11, 2019, trial date has been set for one of the nation’s biggest Medicare fraud cases that Esformes allegedly orchestrated through nursing homes and assisted living facilities he owned. According to the government, the scheme resulted in $1 billion in false billing and at least $464 million in improper reimbursement payments from Medicare and Medicaid.

Esformes, has been in federal custody since his arrest in July 2016, and prosecutors voiced concerns early on about him being a risk for flight, possible witness tampering and his substantial resources enabling him to live comfortably overseas.

Judge Scola found that the bid for release deserved reconsideration, but ultimately found delays in the case were more attributable to giving the defense time to review the overwhelming quantity of evidence than time spent addressing the government’s conduct. He also agreed with the government that the duration of Esformes’ detention is not grounds for release under binding precedent.

Additionally, the judge rejected Esformes’ motion to dismiss nine counts of alleging money laundering concealment. Esformes had argued that the government improperly based transactions cited in other counts as alleged payments or receipts of kickbacks. You can read more about that here.

Despite problems with the conduct of prosecutors and agents, the judge is keeping the fraud case on track. The Miami businessman is charged with conspiracy, obstruction, money laundering and health care fraud. Click here to read the U.S. Department of Justice’s press release on this case.

Click here to read one of my prior blogs about a billion dollar fraud scheme in Florida.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicare Audits, Investigations and other Legal Proceedings.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S., as well as in civil and administrative litigation attempting to recoup claims that have been paid. They also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from Medicare and Medicaid Program.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, orthodontists, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, assisted living facilities (ALFs), home health care agencies, nursing homes, group homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Hale, Nathan. “Miami Man To Remain Jailed For Trial In $1B Medicare Fraud.” Law360. (December 3, 2018). Web.

Weaver, Jay. “Miami federal judge keeps massive Medicare fraud case on track for trial in January.” Miami Herald. (November 14, 2018). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

Keywords: Medicare fraud defense representation attorney, legal representation for defense of Medicare fraud charges, Medicare fraud defense attorney, legal representation for allegations of Medicare fraud, legal representation for health care fraud, legal representation for fraudulent billing, legal representation for allegation of defrauding the government, legal representation for submitting false claims, Medicare audit defense attorney, Medicare billing defense attorney, health care clinic fraud audit, legal representation for false billing, legal representation for allegations of unnecessary procedures, legal representation for Medicare audits, Medicaid fraud defense attorney, legal representation for Medicaid fraud, audit defense lawyer, healthcare fraud representation, healthcare fraud lawyer, legal representation for Medicaid audit, Medicaid audit defense attorney, Medicare and Medicaid investigation defense attorney, legal representation for Medicare and Medicaid investigations, OIG investigation defense attorney, legal representation for OIG investigations, Department of Justice (DOJ) investigations, DOJ representation, representation for DOJ investigations, licensure defense lawyer, reviews of the Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, Health law defense attorney

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Virginia Doc Lands 40 Years in Prison For Running Multi-state Pill Mill

George Indest HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On October 2, 2019, a Virginia doctor received a 40-year prison sentence for illegally prescribing more than half a million opioid pills over 19 months. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia handed down the sentence to Joel Smithers, who was reported to have operated a “pill mill” out of Virginia, according to authorities. In addition to prison time, he was given an $86,000 fine and will serve three years of supervised release upon the completion of his prison time, according to court documents.

The sentence is lighter than it could have been. He was facing up to life in prison and a fine of more than $200 million, according to officials at the U.S. Justice Department. Click here to view the court’s sentencing document in full.

Alleged Interstate Drug Distribution Network.

In May 2019, Smithers was convicted by a jury on more than 859 federal drug charges, including one count of possessing with the intent to distribute controlled substances and one count of maintaining a place for the purpose of unlawfully distributing controlled substances. Additionally, he was also convicted on hundreds of counts of unlawfully distributing a controlled substance without a legitimate medical purpose or beyond the bounds of medical practice.

When he opened his Virginia practice in 2015, Justice Department officials said he prescribed controlled substances to “every patient in his practice, resulting in over 500,000 Schedule II controlled substances being distributed.” Authorities say that he allegedly ran an operation that was less a medical practice and more an interstate drug distribution network.

Smithers was able to rake in over $700,000 in cash and credit card payments before the search warrant was executed at his office on March 7, 2017. Click here to read the press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Virginia.

To learn about a similar case involving two Florida doctors, click here.

The Problems I See.

I tell you that I take issue with many of the cases of this sort. I do not know enough about the actual facts of this physician’s case, but I can comment generally based on other similar cases I have had in the past. The government, both state and federal, has come down like a hammer on individual physicians and pharmacists in its over-zealous campaign to crack down on opioids. Many physicians and pharmacists, just trying to do a good job and legitimately treat their patients, are being caught up and persecuted. Chronic pain patients, many of whom are disabled veterans or people injured on the job, are unable to find physicians to treat them anymore or, if they can, any pharmacists willing to fill their prescriptions.

All sorts of under-handed techniques are used to try to make a case against conscientious health professionals who are merely trying to do their jobs. These do include the tactic seen in the case we are reporting on, which I call “bean counting.” The government comes in and, instead of proving how many allegedly illegal prescriptions were written or how many patients the physician gave the prescriptions to, breaks these out into the number of pills. This greatly exaggerates the case and these large numbers alone make it look like the doctor (or pharmacist) is doing something wrong or extremely way out of the norm.

For example, if a patient was receiving a low dose of a pain killer, say 10 mg Oxycodone every 4 to 6 hours, prescribed for four times a day, the ordinary monthly prescription for this medication alone (and such patients rarely receive one type of medication alone) this equates to 120 pills per month. If 10 mg pills are not available and/or the prescription is filled with 5 mg pills, instead, this is 240 pills a month. A years’ worth is 1,440 pills or 2,880 pills for just one patient. If the physician has 50 similar patients, this is 72,000 pills or 144,000 pills a year that the physician is writing and a pharmacy or pharmacies are filling.

This does not seem extreme or unusual to me, at all, and these amounts are on the low side. Yet just as government agencies love to inflate the “street value” or contraband drugs they seize, they love to break down the number of opioids a physician writes so it seems to a layperson to be extraordinarily large. Furthermore, a pain management physician or any other kind of physician cannot survive with just 50 patients a month. It is far more likely for a physician to have a thousand (1,000) or more patients a month. I call this type of numerical exaggeration “bean counting.” But it has put a number of physicians and pharmacists in jail.

Judges should not allow such exaggerated numbers to be introduced into evidence in the absence of further information that places them in context. It is unfairly prejudicial to the defendant to do so.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with DEA Cases.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm are experienced in handling Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) cases, board of medicine cases and board of pharmacy cases regarding allegations of over-prescribing and illegal prescribing. If you are currently being investigated or facing other adverse actions by the DEA contact one of our attorneys by calling (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001. You can also visit our website for more information at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Booker, Brakkton. “Doctor Gets 40 Years For Illegally Prescribing More Than Half A Million Opioid Doses.” NPR. (October 2, 2019). Web.

“Virginia doctor could get life in prison today for prescribing 500,000 opioid pills.” RTV6. (October 2, 2019). Web.

Almasy, Steve. “Virginia doctor who illegally prescribed 500,000 opioid pills sentenced to 40 years in prison.” CNN. (October 2, 2019). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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Miami Man to Remain Jailed for Trial in Nation’s Largest Medicare Fraud Case

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On December 3, 2018, a Florida judge ruled that a Miami businessman who has been jailed for more than two years on $1 billion health care fraud charges, must remain in custody through his trial next year. U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola Jr. found no violation of his due process rights. He also denied Philip Esformes’ motion to dismiss several money laundering charges.

Trial Date is Set.

A February 11, 2019, trial date has been set for one of the nation’s biggest Medicare fraud cases that Esformes allegedly orchestrated through nursing homes and assisted living facilities he owned. According to the government, the scheme resulted in $1 billion in false billing and at least $464 million in improper reimbursement payments from Medicare and Medicaid.

Esformes, has been in federal custody since his arrest in July 2016, and prosecutors voiced concerns early on about him being a risk for flight, possible witness tampering and his substantial resources enabling him to live comfortably overseas.

Judge Scola found that the bid for release deserved reconsideration, but ultimately found delays in the case were more attributable to giving the defense time to review the overwhelming quantity of evidence than time spent addressing the government’s conduct. He also agreed with the government that the duration of Esformes’ detention is not grounds for release under binding precedent.

Additionally, the judge rejected Esformes’ motion to dismiss nine counts of alleging money laundering concealment. Esformes had argued that the government improperly based transactions cited in other counts as alleged payments or receipts of kickbacks. You can read more about that here.

Despite problems with the conduct of prosecutors and agents, the judge is keeping the fraud case on track. The Miami businessman is charged with conspiracy, obstruction, money laundering and health care fraud. Click here to read the U.S. Department of Justice’s press release on this case.

Click here to read one of my prior blogs about a billion dollar fraud scheme in Florida.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicare Audits, Investigations and other Legal Proceedings.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S., as well as in civil and administrative litigation attempting to recoup claims that have been paid. They also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from Medicare and Medicaid Program.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, orthodontists, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, assisted living facilities (ALFs), home health care agencies, nursing homes, group homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Hale, Nathan. “Miami Man To Remain Jailed For Trial In $1B Medicare Fraud.” Law360. (December 3, 2018). Web.

Weaver, Jay. “Miami federal judge keeps massive Medicare fraud case on track for trial in January.” Miami Herald. (November 14, 2018). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area.             www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

Keywords: Medicare fraud defense representation attorney, legal representation for defense of Medicare fraud charges, Medicare fraud defense attorney, legal representation for allegations of Medicare fraud, legal representation for health care fraud, legal representation for fraudulent billing, legal representation for allegation of defrauding the government, legal representation for submitting false claims, Medicare audit defense attorney, Medicare billing defense attorney, health care clinic fraud audit, legal representation for false billing, legal representation for allegations of unnecessary procedures, legal representation for Medicare audits, Medicaid fraud defense attorney, legal representation for Medicaid fraud, audit defense lawyer, healthcare fraud representation, healthcare fraud lawyer, legal representation for Medicaid audit, Medicaid audit defense attorney, Medicare and Medicaid investigation defense attorney, legal representation for Medicare and Medicaid investigations, OIG investigation defense attorney, legal representation for OIG investigations, Department of Justice (DOJ) investigations, DOJ representation, representation for DOJ investigations, licensure defense lawyer, reviews of the Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, Health law defense attorney

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

NYC Doctor Gets Prison Term for Posing as Clinic Owner in $30 Million Fraud Scheme

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On August 22, 2018, a doctor received a sentence of one year and a day in prison from a New York federal court for his part in a $30 million scheme to defraud Medicare and the state Medicaid program. The doctor admitted to posing as the owner of a medical clinic and falsely claiming to have seen hundreds of patients. He pled guilty on January 11, 2018, to health care fraud and conspiracy to commit health care fraud, mail fraud and wire fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Lies and Cover-ups.

The New York City doctor accepted responsibility for falsely posing as the owner of two medical clinics that were actually owned by a corrupt businessman, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Under New York state law, medical clinics must be owned and operated by a medical professional. The businessman was able to evade the requirements of the law by hiring doctors to pose as the owners of each clinic.

The corrupt businessman owned and operated six medical clinics in Brooklyn between 2007 and 2013 that fraudulently billed Medicare and Medicaid. Approximately $30 million was billed for services and supplies that were not provided, according to the indictment and other documents filed in federal court, as well as statements made during the doctor’s plea proceeding and sentencing.

Additionally, the doctor fabricated false medical records to support the fraudulent reimbursement claims and wrote prescriptions and referrals for medically unnecessary tests and supplies, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

The Punishment.

U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield sentenced the doctor to three years of supervised release in addition to the prison term for his role in the scheme. He was also ordered to pay restitution of approximately $1.83 million and to forfeit $269,412 in unlawful gains. The three other defendants involved in this case, a doctor, a physical therapist and an occupational therapist, are scheduled to go to trial at a later date. Click here to learn more.

“The Medicare and Medicaid programs are intended to provide essential medical services to the elderly and the needy, not to enrich corrupt doctors and other fraudsters,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement. “Today’s sentence sends a strong message that those who cheat Medicare and Medicaid, including physicians who abuse their licenses and professional oaths, will be held accountable.” You can view the U.S. Attorney’s press release here.

To read about a similar case of fraud, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

This is a Dangerous Pitfall of Which all Doctors and Dentists Must Be Aware.

This is the type of situation we often see in which a doctor or dentist is victimized by dishonest and corrupt scofflaws, especially here in Florida. Most often an older physician who is retired or semi-retired is asked to become the “medical director” or “dental director” of a clinic that is owned in whole or in part by someone else. The physician may not even know who its true owners are. Later the physician or dentist is asked to serve as the “president” or as a “director” of the company and his/her name is placed on all the corporate papers. The trouble really begins, however, when the true owner(s) places the physician’s or dentist’s name on corporate papers and licensing papers as an “owner,” “shareholder” or “member” of the business, when the physician has paid nothing for the business and is not truly the owner.

If a physician or dentist becomes aware of such a scheme and gets out of it as soon as she or her finds out, the physician or dentist may be able to avoid prosecution or liability. However, if the physician or dentist continues to do business with the true owners as an “owner on paper,” “shell owner,” or “sham owner,” (they all mean the same thing, “fraudulent owner”) then he or she can be in for some serious civil and criminal liability.

There can be serious criminal penalties, such as the one reported on in this blog. For example, in Florida, it is a felony for a non-dentist (meaning a dentist not licensed in Florida) to own or control a dental clinic in Florida. It is also a criminal offense for a layperson (or a business entity owned by lay persons), to own or control a medical clinic, unless it goes through the strict health care clinic license requirements that Florida law requires. If the clinic is owned or operated illegally (even if it’s “just on paper”), then all of the bills it issue are also illegal.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicare and Medicaid Fraud Cases.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers, home health agencies, nursing homes and other healthcare providers in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits and recovery actions. They also represent them in preparing and submitting corrective action plans (CAPs), requests for reconsideration, and appeal hearings, including Medicare administrative hearings before an administrative law judge.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Hanson, Joyce. “Doc Gets Year In Prison For Role In $30M Medicare Fraud.” Law360. (August 22, 2018). Web.

“NYC Doctor Gets Prison Term for Role in $30M Fraud Scam.” Bloomberg Law. (August 22, 2018). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Medicare and Medicaid fraud representation, false claims attorney, false claims representation, representation for overbilling, representation for DOJ investigations, fraud defense attorney, representation for medicare issues, representation for Medicaid issues, Medicare lawyer, Medicaid lawyer, health care fraud investigation representation, health care fraud defense representation, Medicare fraud representation, health care professional representation, representation for physicians, representation for physician reimbursement, licensure defense attorney, professional license representation, licensure defense representation, representation for health care professionals, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys, Florida health law defense lawyer, owner on paper, shell owner, or sham owner, paper owner, Florida dental clinic ownership, health care clinic license

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.