The 2018 Boom in Physician Arrests: Characteristics of the Arrested Doctor
It’s happening: more and more doctors are being arrested and imprisoned on federal charges. This isn’t a shocker, we’ve been warning about it for a while now. For details and background info, check out:
- Health Care Fraud Prosecutions in 2018: Money and Drugs
- Doctors in Texas Alert: Feds Are Targeting Health Care Fraud Arrests
- Doctor Warning: Opioid Drug CEO Indictment Is Tip of Health Care Fraud Arrest Iceberg
- Arresting Texas Doctors for Health Care Fraud: What You Need to Know.
Thing is: it’s going to be happening more and more in 2018 and all physicians need to be alert and aware.
- It doesn’t matter where you practice. Federal investigations and arrests are taking place all over the country.
- It doesn’t matter how old you are. Recently, a 70+ year old physician was jailed for 4 years on federal charges.
- It doesn’t matter what you practice. Physicians in all varieties of practice areas and specialties are being targeted by law enforcement.
- It doesn’t matter how long you have been in practice. Arrests are being made where doctors have been practicing medicine for decades.
- It doesn’t matter if your patients are loyal and loving. A beloved east coast doctor faces a 166 count indictment on federal charges.
So, what are the characteristics of a doctor who may be targeted for arrest in 2018? It’s a trick question because there’s no template here. Consider the following examples from the past few months:
1. 71-Year-Old Kentucky Ob-Gyn Doctor Gets 4 Years Federal Prison
Since 1980, Dr. George Kudmani had a successful obstetrical and gynecological practice in Louisville, Kentucky, until one day in 2012 when federal agents swept in and arrested him on health care fraud and drug charges.
In June 2017, Dr. Kudmani appeared before Chief District Judge Joseph H. McKinley, Jr. of the Federal District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. Judge McKinley sentenced Dr. Kudmani to 4 years in prison as well as restitution (forfeiture).
The Kentucky Ob-Gyn was 71 years old at the time of sentencing. He was convicted after a week-long jury trial on 19 counts of unlawfully distributing controlled substances and eight counts of healthcare fraud.
Specifically, Dr. Kudmani was found to have committed fraud in his Medicaid billing and to have prescribed pain medication (opioids) without a valid medical cause.
For details, read the story by Joanne Finnegan at FierceHealthCare.com entitled “Doctor Sentenced to Prison for Distributing Opioids, Fraud” published on June 7, 2017 and the press release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Kentucky.
2. 56-Year-Old New York Doctor Practicing Neurology, Pain Management Faces Life Imprisonment
You’ll find that 56 year old Dr. Eugene Gosy spent 33 years building a practice to help patients suffering chronic pain over in Williamsville, New York with glowing reviews at WebMD.com. Many of his patients remain loyal to Dr. Gosy even now, after a federal grand jury has returned a 166 Count Indictment against him. Watch his patients give their take on Dr. Gosy in the news story appearing on WKBW in November 2017, “Patients are still loyal to Dr. Gosy.”
- One count of unlawfully conspiring to distribute and dispense, and to cause to be distributed and dispensed controlled substances, other than for a legitimate medical purpose and not in the usual course of professional practice, resulting in the death of six (6) of his patients;
- Three counts of unlawfully distributing and dispensing controlled substances, including fentanyl, oxycodone, and tapentadol, each resulting in the death of a patient;
- 144 counts of unlawfully distributing and dispensing controlled substances, other than for a legitimate medical purpose and not in the usual course of professional practice;
- Two counts of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud; and
- 16 counts of healthcare fraud.
He’s facing between 10 years to life imprisonment on these charges.
3. 58-Year-Old Nevada Cardiologist Faces 39 Health Care Fraud and Drug Charges
After spending 30 years building a cardiology practice in Elko, Nevada, 58 year old Dr. Devendra Patel was arrested by federal agents on 39 health care fraud and drug charges.
Dr. Patel, 58, is charged with 36 counts of distribution of controlled substances such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, and three counts of health care fraud. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence exceeding 300 years on these federal charges. Read the December 2017 news release by the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Nevada here.
Prosecutors are alleging that the cardiologist “…routinely prescribed fentanyl, hydrocodone, and oxycodone for his patients without a legitimate medical purpose and that he fraudulently billed Medicare and Medicaid for medical tests that he did not perform. The indictment alleges that Patel performed EKGs on his patients, so he could then order nuclear stress tests which he did not administer. He allegedly used a poorly calibrated machine and presented his patients with fraudulent X-Rays, in order to deceive his patients into thinking they had coronary issues that needed to be treated by him.”
For more details, see the Associated Press coverage as published by US News and World Report’s coverage in “Prosecutor: Nevada Doctor Indicted in Opioid Pill Mill Case.”
4. 67-Year-Old Oklahoma Family Practice Doctor Arrested on 5 Counts of 2nd Degree Murder
In June 2017, Doctor Regan Nichols was arrested for murder. Five counts of murder involving the deaths of her patients. These charges were brought by state authorities, not federal agents.
According to the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office, the osteopathic physician built a practice at the Sunshine Medical Center in Midwest City, Oklahoma. She practiced pain management and prescribed pain medications as part of her treatment and care. USNews lists Dr. Nichols as practicing “family medicine” for over 20 years.
The prosecutors charge that five patients died after “being prescribed more than 1,800 opioid pills in the same months as their deaths. Three of the five individuals were prescribed a deadly three drug combination of a narcotic opioid pain reliever, an anti-anxiety drug and a muscle relaxer. All of the prescriptions were signed by Nichols.
In addition, data gathered by agents through the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control Prescription Monitoring Program indicates that from Jan. 1, 2010 to Oct. 7, 2014, Nichols prescribed in excess of 3 million dosage units of controlled dangerous substances.”
Wave of Doctor Arrests Coming in 2018
It’s not just criminal defense lawyers that are forecasting a growing number of physician arrests in the upcoming year. Industry experts and media analysts agree that there will be a shocking number of doctors charged and booked in 2018.
For details, read “Doctors increasingly face charges for patient overdoses,” written by Michael Nedelman and published by CNN on July 31, 2017.
There are things that doctors can learn from a criminal defense perspective on this new prosecutorial trend. Physicians should consider:
1. Even being arrested and charged can be life-altering, financially.
You have to make bond, for instance. That may mean selling your personal property in order to be free pending trial. Dr. Gosy, for example, got bail after putting up his home to secure the $250,000 bail bond.
2. You may or may not be able to work after the arrest.
Since the charges involve your medical practice, there’s likely to be prosecutorial arguments against your ability to continue practicing while you facing trial. Maybe you can work out a deal, maybe you can’t. Dr. Gosy was able to negotiate arrangements to keep practicing medicine under the supervision of others, for instance.
3. Your reputation will be harmed with media coverage of the arrest.
When a doctor is arrested in 2018, there’s going to be a really good chance that the arrest is going to make the local news, and may even warrant national news coverage depending upon the charges. The opioid drug crisis is big news. So are Medicare and Medicaid.
This means that a physician who is arrested may have his family and friends reading about the arrest in the local news and social media as well as watching the coverage on their local television channels. Loyal patients may come to support their doctor, like the patients who appeared for Dr. in the local news stories.
You’ll be lucky and blessed if in the end, all you have to deal with is the aftermath of gossip – but gossip and chatter about your arrest alone can be disastrous to a professional. Business goodwill is a tangible asset that can be destroyed in one of these prosecutions.
Ask Questions if You Are Concerned About this New Prosecutorial Trend
Doctors who are worried that they may face arrest or criminal charges are wise not to wait or procrastinate.
It’s prudent to get counsel from an experienced criminal defense lawyer on what might happen and the steps of a criminal prosecution under state or federal law (they are very different procedurally and substantively).
Criminal defense lawyers aren’t going to judge doctors who stop to ask questions and delve into what is going on now with the Justice Department. Defense lawyers are ready to help.
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