Craig doctor arrested for prescribing drugs resulting in patient deaths and heath care fraud scheme
DENVER – Joel E. Miller, age 55, of Craig, Colorado, was arrested without incident today on charges of health care fraud, money laundering and distributing/dispensing controlled substances, federal and state authorities announced. Miller was indicted by federal grand jury in Denver on August 21, 2013, which remained under seal until his arrest and first court appearance. Miller was arrested without incident in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. He made his initial appearance this afternoon before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Grand Junction, where he was advised of his rights and the charges pending against him.
According to the indictment, Miller was a licensed physician in the state of Colorado and obtained Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree in 1990. He was licensed to practice medicine in Colorado in 1994. In 2003 he practiced medicine in Moffat County, Colorado and in 2008, Miller opened a solo private medical practice located in Craig, Colorado. The legal name of his business was DODXRX, doing business as High Country Medical.
In September 2009, the State of Colorado Board of Medical Examiners (“Board”) entered a Stipulation and Final Agency Order in which the Board issued a Letter of Admonition against Miller based upon findings he mis-prescribed neuropsychiatric medications to certain patients. The Board ordered Miller, among other things, to attend a continuing medical education course “in the area of prescribing” and provide proof of completion of such a course. In March of 2011, Miller sent a letter to the Board acknowledging completion of the ordered course.
Approximately between May 2008 and September 2012, Miller executed and attempted to execute a scheme to defraud health care benefit programs, namely Medicaid, Medicare, and commercial health care plans. Particularly, Miller prescribed controlled substances to patients without determining a sufficient medical necessity for the prescription of controlled substances; prescribed controlled substances to patients in a manner which was inconsistent with the usual course of professional practice and for other than legitimate medical purpose; and prescribed pharmaceuticals to patients for whom the prescription was not intended, and directed the persons to whom he prescribed the pharmaceuticals to give the prescription to third parties.
Furthermore, Miller prescribed controlled substances in quantities and dosages that would cause patients to abuse, misuse, and become addicted to the controlled substances. He also pre-signed prescriptions and allowed office employees to distribute controlled substance prescriptions to patients in his absence and without a doctor’s examination of the patient. According to the indictment, in August of 2010, Miller dispensed and distributed to a patient hydrocodone (Schedule III controlled substance), alprazolam and clonazepam, (both Schedule IV controlled substances) which resulted in the death of the patient. The indictment also alleges that in May 2012, Miller dispensed and distributed to a patient hydrocodone (Schedule III controlled substance), and diazepam (a Schedule IV controlled substance) which also resulted in death.
“Defrauding our health care system, causing the cost of care to increase is one thing,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh. “It is quite another when a doctor over prescribes prescription medication that, as alleged in this case, causes patients to be addicted, and in two cases here, die.”
"Dr. Joel E. Miller's over prescribing and distribution of licit drugs is no different than the drug traffickers that DEA targets," said Drug Enforcement Administration Denver Special Agent in Charge Barbra Roach. "Dr. Miller destroyed the life of at least two patients, has hurt many other patients and disguised his drug dealing by conducting those activities in his professional office and while wearing a doctor's coat. DEA will continue to target "drug dealers" no matter their social or professional status."
"Crimes like this are motivated purely by greed and the patients are the real victims in this case," said Stephen Boyd, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Denver Field Office. "Prescription drug abuse is a serious problem and we are committed to investigate along with our law enforcement partners those individuals who are responsible for the illegal distribution of prescription medicine."
“Many people in Moffat County were directly negatively affected by the actions of Dr. Miller,” said Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz. “Some in our community were caused great harm and pain, which will never go away for those families. Hopefully this arrest and indictment will bring some closure to those affected by his actions.”
Miller was charged with thirty four counts as follows; one count of health care fraud with death resulting, which carries a penalty of life in prison, and up to a $250,000 fine; eight counts of health care fraud, which carries a penalty of not more than 10 years in federal prison, and a fine of up to $250,000 per count; ten counts of money laundering, which carries a penalty of not more than 20 years in federal prison, and a fine of up to $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved, per count; two counts of dispensing of controlled substances resulting in death, which carries a penalty of not less than 20 years, and up to life in federal prison, and up to a $1,000,000 fine; seven counts of dispensing of controlled substances, which carries a penalty of not more than 20 years in federal prison, and up to a $1,000,000 fine; dispensing of controlled substances, which carries a penalty of not more than 10 years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine; one count of dispensing a controlled substance, which carries a penalty of not more than 10 years in federal prison, and up to a $500,000 fine; and one count of furnishing false and fraudulent material information, which carries a penalty of not more than 4 years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine. The indictment also includes an asset forfeiture allegation.
This case was investigated by agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and IRS Criminal Investigation with the assistance of the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office and the Colorado Attorney General's Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle M. Heldmyer.
The charges contained in the indictment are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.