TWO MORE LOCAL PHARMACISTS AND 40+ COUNTS ADDED TO "DR. HERPIN" INDICTMENT
DEC 1 -- (HOUSTON, TX) United States Attorney Michael Shelby and Special Agent in Charge James D. Craig with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced today that two more Houston pharmacists and 43 additional counts have been added to the original 127-count - nine defendant indictment returned on September 29, 2004, charging Callie Hall Herpin, M.D., and six local pharmacists with conspiracy to illegally distribute prescription narcotics for non-medical purposes. The 170-count superseding indictment, unsealed on Tuesday, November 30, 2004, adds John David Wiley III, 39, and Anthony Dwayne Essett, 38, co- owners of a local pharmacy, as defendants and charges them with conspiracy, two substantive drug distribution counts and more than 30 counts each of money laundering arising from the illegal distribution of the prescription drugs hydrocodone and promethazine with codeine. The indictment accuses all defendants of distributing 1.7 million tablets of hydrocodone and 2500 gallons of promethazine with codeine, a cough suppressant, in just over one year.
John David Wiley III and Anthony Dwayne Essett are co-owners of I-10 East Pharmaceutical Services located at 11929 I-10 East in Houston, Texas.
Essett was arrested without incident on November 29, 2004, appeared before United States Magistrate Judge Nancy Johnson, and ordered released upon posting of a $50,000 bond. An arrest warrant remains outstanding for the arrest of Wiley.
The superceding indictment adds the following additional counts. Wiley and Esset are charged with conspiracy to illegally distribute controlled substances as well as with two counts of illegal distribution of controlled substances. Wiley is charged with 33 counts of money laundering and Essett with 37 count of money laundering. In addition to the previous charges against her, the superceding indictment charges Etta Mae Williams with obstructing a federal investigation by falsifying records.
According to allegations contained in the superseding indictment, Dr. Herpin, with the assistance of Etta and Karen Williams, routinely sold prescriptions for hydrocodone and promethazine with codeine for cash to individuals who did not have a medical need for the drugs. Further, it is alleged that Dr. Herpin would write prescriptions for individuals whose names were taken from a telephone book by Etta and Karen Williams and had never been present in the doctor's office. These prescriptions were written in the names of individuals taken from the phonebook by Etta and Karen Williams. It is alleged that Etta and Karen Williams created lists using the names from the phonebook, along with addresses and fictitious telephone numbers and dates of birth. The lists were used by Dr. Herpin to write the prescriptions and ultimately by the pharmacists to fill the illegal prescriptions. It is further alleged that Etta Williams, who is not a doctor, would also “prescribe” hydrocodone and promethazine with codeine for non-existent patients by signing Dr. Herpin's name. Certain unindicted individuals would purchase a list of as many as 25 prescriptions from Herpin's office. The individual would be directed to one of the indicted pharmacists who would be willing to fill the multiple prescriptions for cash.
Other pharmacists previously charged and included in the superceding indictment are Otukayode Adeleke Otufale, the owner of Med Stop Pharmacy located at 6440 Hillcroft; Isaac Simeon Achobe, the owner of American Choice Pharmacy located at 8449 W. Bellfort; Darryl Joseph Armstrong and Paul Allen Henry, co-owners of Stella Link Pharmacy located at 9325 Stella Link, and Chicha Kazembe Combs and Andre` Dion Brown, co-owners of Mason Road Pharmacy located at 829 S. Mason Road, Katy, Texas.
Allegedly each of these pharmacists and Wiley and Esset used the phony identifying information from the lists to create patient profiles in his records for the fictitious individuals. Each of the indicted pharmacists filled hundreds of illegal prescriptions from Dr. Herpin. Wiley and Essett are accused of dispensing over 290,000 hydrocodone pills and more than 411 gallons of promethazine with codeine. Otufale is accused of illegally dispensing over 658,000 hydrocodone pills and more than 976 gallons of promethazine with codeine. Achobe is accused of illegally dispensing over 16,000 hydrocodone pills and more than 33 gallons of promethazine with codeine. Armstrong and Henry are accused of illegally dispensing over 615,000 hydrocodone pills and more than 844 gallons of promethazine with codeine. Combs and Brown are accused of illegally dispensing over 183,000 hydrocodone pills and more than 254 gallons of promethazine with codeine.
Dr. Herpin and Etta Williams, her office manager, are charged with conspiracy to defraud the Medicare program of $30 million and health care fraud in the superceding
indictment. Allegedly, Herpin and Williams signed the necessary paperwork authorizing motorized wheelchairs for Medicare beneficiaries for a $200 fee. The required paperwork was signed regardless of the beneficiaries' need for a motorized wheelchair. Most of the beneficiaries clearly did not qualify for a motorized wheelchair. Oftentimes, the beneficiary was not even present in the doctor's office. A marketer would bring only the necessary paperwork for Dr. Herpin to sign. The new indictment also alleges that patient files were then created to make it appear as if the patient had been seen by Dr. Herpin.
The United States, through the superceding indictment, notifies the defendants of its intent to forfeit approximately $12.9 million from Dr. Herpin and Etta Williams as proceeds of the fraudulent Medicare scheme. Additionally, the United States will seek to forfeit approximately $3.1 million from Herpin, Etta Williams, Karen Williams, Otufale, Achobe, Armstrong, Henry, Combs, Brown, Wiley, and Essett as proceeds of the illegal drug distribution network.
Upon conviction, each of the health care fraud counts (19 counts) carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in a federal prison and a $250,000 fine. The health care conspiracy and the drug conspiracy each carry a penalty of 5 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. The drug distribution counts (10) carry either a 1 or 5 year maximum penalty and as much as a $250,000 fine. The money laundering counts (138 counts) carry either a 10 or 20 year maximum penalty and as much as a $500,000 fine. The obstruction count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. Parole has been abolished in the federal prison system.
The criminal charges are the result of a joint investigation being conducted by agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA),the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS/OIG), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS/CI). This case will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Al Balboni.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.