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Physicians face prison, fines for opioid drug dealing, fraud

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U.S. attorney says doctor ‘distributed drugs with a prescription pad’ in federal case.

Physicians are facing prison time and fines for their involvement in various drug dealing and fraud cases around the country.

The U.S. Department of Justice, working with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General, announced the actions in unrelated cases in the first week of November. The court cases were filed by U.S. attorneys in their respective districts.

New York

A jury found physician Howard Adelglass, 67, of New York, guilty of conspiracy to illegally distribute oxycodone. Adelglass could face up to 20 years in prison, according to the announcement from U.S. Attorney Damian Williams of the Southern District of New York.

Adelglass operated a pain management clinic in Midtown Manhattan where he allegedly wrote prescriptions for oxycodone in exchange for cash and sometimes cocaine or sex acts. From November 2017 to September 2020, Adelglass prescribed more than 1.3 million oxycodone pills, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Adelglass “was a drug dealer, but instead of peddling drugs on the street corner, he distributed drugs with a prescription pad from his Central Park South ‘pain-management clinic,’” Williams said in a statement. “For years, the defendant prescribed enormous quantities of highly addictive and deadly opioids to people he knew were suffering from substance abuse disorders or were dealers. By distributing mammoth quantities of oxycodone pills to people without a legitimate medical purpose, the defendant destroyed lives and families. Along with our law enforcement partners, we will continue to hold accountable those responsible for fueling the opioid crisis that is ravaging our community and nation.”

The New York State Education Department’s Office of the Professions listed Adelglass’ medical license as suspended.

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In October, the clinic’s former office manager, Marcello Sansone, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to illegally distribute oxycodone.

Pennsylvania

John Keun Sang Lee, age 79, of Venetia, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to one count of health care fraud, according to a Nov. 4 announcement by U.S. Attorney Cindy K. Chung of the Western District of Pennsylvania.

From May 2016 to October 2020, Lee submitted claims to Medicare and Medicaid to pay for steroid injections that were not medically necessary. Former patients and employees said Lee required patients to submit to steroid injections and instructed staff to withhold medications if patients objected to the injections.

Lee could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Lee will pay $264,730 in restitution to HHS and $153,230 to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services for fraud, and will surrender his medical license, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The Pennsylvania Department of State’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs online database had records of Lee licensed as a medical physician and surgeon, and acupuncturist.

Ohio

Deepak Raheja, 66, of Hudson, Ohio, a licensed physician, and Frank Mazzucco, 44, of Dublin, Ohio, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to solicit, receive, offer, and pay health care kickbacks, according to the announcement by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Ohio.

Raheja specialized in psychiatry and neurology in Cleveland, while Mazzucco was regional business manager for Avanir Pharmaceuticals. That company makes Nuedexta, a drug used to treat pseudobulbar, a condition characterized by involuntary, sudden, and frequent episodes of uncontrollable laughing and crying.

From February 2011 to July 2016, Raheja and Mazzucco conspired to increase Nuedexta prescriptions by Raheja working as part of the company’s speakers bureau. Raheja gave about 211 speaking presentations, receiving about $1,500 for each.

Raheja received a total of $331,550 in total payments from Avanir and wrote about 10,088 prescriptions for the drug, the largest amount in the country. Raheja will serve 30 months in prison, surrender his medical license, and pay at least $1.17 million in restitution, according to a plea agreement announced by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.


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