Opioid Crackdown Nets 14, Including 12 Medical Professionals

The owner of a Boynton Beach pharmacy was among 14 people charged in connection with the unlawful distribution of opioids. Of them, twelve were medical professionals at the time of the alleged crime.

According to the charges filed against Casey Kelleher, from February 2019 to August 2021, the owner of Neighborhood Pharmacy purchased large amounts of oxycodone and hydromorphone and sold most on the black market.

Kelleher, along with the 13 other defendants are alleged to have been involved in the illegal prescription and distribution of 5.1 million opioid pills. The charges were the result of the Department of Justice’s Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force, a multiagency approach that targets the unlawful prescription of opioids across the Appalachian region. The Strike Force has so far charged 111 defendants in the last three years. In all, they are charged with prescribing 115 million pills.

Last year alone, the nation’s opioid epidemic caused the deaths of more than 75,000 people in the United States due to overdose.

Others charged in this latest crackdown include:

  • Physicians Eskender Getachew, MD, and Charles Kistler, MD, both of Ohio, were charged with unlawfully prescribing controlled substances outside the usual course of practice.
  • Frederick DeMesa of West Virginia who allegedly obtained a DEA registration number issued to a relative to issue prescriptions for opioids.
  • Loey Kousa, the owner and operator of East Ky Clinic in Kentucky, is alleged to have filled prescriptions for patients who had brief interactions with him and fraudulently billed for those visits as if they were longer and more complex.
  • Jay Sadrinia, a Kentucky dentist who is alleged to have caused the death of a patient to whom he issued two oxycodone prescriptions for a total of 60 pills, and two morphine prescriptions for a total of 48 pills, within an 8-day period. If convicted, he faces no less than 20 years in prison.
  • Yogeshwar Gill, MD, the owner of a Tennessee medical practice, was charged in connection with an alleged scheme to distribute opioids and Suboxone outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose.
  • Contessa Holley, a former nurse and clinical director at a Tennessee hospice, was charged with filing fraudulent prescriptions in the names of current and former hospice patients. She is alleged to have used their benefits to pay for the drugs and then kept them for her own use or distribution.
  • Hau T. La, MD, who operated Absolute Medical Care in Tennessee is alleged to have prescribed oxycodone, oxymorphone, and morphine to eight patients outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose.
  • Robert K. Taffet, MD, a New Jersey physician and owner of a medical practice, is alleged to have issued prescriptions for opioids and other controlled substances to patients without assessing them in person or via telemedicine. According to the complaint, Taffet issued prescriptions that resulted in more than 179,000 pills containing oxycodone hydrochloride, morphine sulfate, and methadone hydrochloride being dispensed by New Jersey pharmacies between April 27, 2020, and December 20, 2021. 

The government has made it clear that it will continue to hold healthcare professionals and others accountable for their part in exploiting the opioid epidemic for personal gain. Investigators employ state-of-the-art data analytics and algorithms to identify the most egregious providers. For example, in the case of the Florida pharmacy owner, investigators noted that he was by far the largest purchaser of opioids in his zip code, thus raising red flags.

If you are a physician or pharmacist under investigation or facing opioid-related charges, the first thing you should do is seek the assistance of an experienced attorney. The Health Law Offices of Anthony C. Vitale can help you protect your interests and defend your practice. We have a long track record of assisting clients in criminal matters. If you have any questions, contact us at 305-358-4500 or email us at info@vitalehealthlaw.com.

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