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Doctor accused of writing fraudulent opioid prescriptions

A doctor with several offices in Southwest Texas and his office manager were taken into custody by federal law enforcement on May 30 on drug trafficking, conspiracy, Medicare fraud, and identity theft charges. A 20-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury was unsealed by a U.S. District Court judge on May 31. A Val Verde County magistrate released the pair after they each posted a $50,000 bond. They face up to 30 years in prison if convicted on all of the charges against them.

The doctor is accused of prescribing opioid painkillers including fentanyl, Oxycodone and Hydrocodone to patients who had no medical need for the drugs after office visits that federal prosecutors referred to as perfunctory. He is also said to have left signed opioid prescriptions at his various offices for his assistants and nurses to fill out. The fraud counts were added because he allegedly billed Medicare for the appointments.

The office manager faces charges because she allegedly took signed prescription forms to several of the doctor's offices and showed the staff how to complete them. She is also accused of entering the allegedly fraudulent Medicare claims and then trying to conceal her activities. The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Medicare Fraud Control Unit of the Texas Office of the Attorney General.

When doctors are charged with felony drug crimes over opioid prescriptions they have written, experienced criminal defense attorneys may ask other physicians to study the medical records of the patients involved to determine whether they could have legitimately needed the drugs. Criminal charges must be proved beyond any reasonable doubt, which may be a difficult standard to meet if doctors question medical determinations made by federal agents and prosecutors.

Source: NBC News 4 San Antonio, "Carrizo Springs doctor, office manager arrested on federal drug charges", Andrea Carden, May 31, 2019

Source: The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Texas, "Carrizo Springs Doctor and Office Manager Arrested on Federal Drug, Health Care Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft Charges", Press release, May 31, 2019

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