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Akron physician and three employees indicted for illegally prescribing hundreds of thousands of painkillers and other pills

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 26, 2014

An Akron physician and three of his employees were indicted for illegally prescribing hundreds of thousands of doses of painkillers and other pills to customers for no legitimate medical purpose, even after he learned some customers had died from overdose-related deaths, law enforcement officials announced today.

Adolph Harper, Jr., 63, of Akron, Adria Harper, 34, of Akron, Patricia Laughman, 51, of Barberton, Ohio, and Tequilla Berry, 35, of Akron, are all named in the 134-count indictment.

The charges include conspiring to traffic pharmaceutical drugs, drug trafficking and health care fraud.  Together, they distributed hundreds of thousands of doses of prescription medications -- including Oxycontin, Percocet, Roxicet, Opana and others – from Adolph Harper’s medical officers in Akron between 2009 and 2012, according to the indictment. 

Count 1 of the indictment charges all four defendants with conspiring to distribute addictive controlled substances, including prescription painkillers and anti-anxiety medication, outside the usual course of professional practice and without any legitimate medical purpose. 

Adolph Harper’s customers, many of who were drug addicts exhibiting clear signs of drug addiction during their visits to his office, came to his office and received “prescriptions” for addictive prescription medications without being examined by Harper and often without seeing him at all, according to the indictment.

Harper continued to distribute “prescriptions” for controlled substances after he learned that some of his customers had died from overdose-related deaths, according to the indictment.

Adria Harper, Patricia Laughman, and Tequilla Berry distributed “prescriptions” to these customers when Adolph Harper was out of the office and also used Adolph Harper’s prescription pad to distribute “prescriptions” for addictive painkillers to themselves, according to the indictment.

Counts 2 through 83 charge Adolph Harper with individual distributions of Schedule II controlled substances including oxycodone, oxymorphone and methadone.

Counts 84 through 109 charge Adria Harper with individual distributions of “prescriptions” for Schedule II controlled substances that she wrote out for herself using Adolph Harper’s prescription pad and for “prescriptions” that she distributed to customers when Adolph Harper, Jr. was not in the office.

Counts 110 through 123 charge Patricia Laughman with individual distributions of “prescriptions” for Schedule II controlled substances that she wrote out for herself using Adolph Harper’s prescription pad.

Counts 124 through 130 charge Tequilla Berry with individual distributions of “prescriptions” for Schedule II controlled substances that she wrote out for herself in the name of an unknowing third party using Adolph Harper’s prescription pad.

Counts 131 through 134 charge Adolph Harper with health care fraud.  Specifically, these counts charge him with executing four separate schemes to defraud health insurance providers by (1) submitting insurance claims for services using a higher billing code than the service justified; (2) submitting insurance claims for unperformed services; (3) billing an insurance provider for a service after collecting a cash payment for the same service; and (4) causing the submission of insurance claims for “prescriptions” for controlled substances that were issued outside the usual course of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose.

“The charges describe a defendant who is simply a drug dealer with a stethoscope who happens to work from a medical office instead of a street corner,” said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. “His actions destroyed families and lives.”

Steven D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cleveland office, said: “Just because you have a prescription pad does not give you a license to deal drugs.   Not only did this doctor violate the physician’s oath but he also allowed others in his office to abuse his medical privileges.” 

“DEA is pleased to acknowledge the indictment of Dr. Adolph Harper,” said Geno Corley, Resident Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Cleveland office. “This case was initiated by the Akron Police Department and investigated by FBI, Health and Human Services with assistance from the DEA Cleveland Resident Office, Ohio State Board of Pharmacy and the State of Ohio Medical Board.  This arrest of Dr. Harper and his co-conspirators is another important step forward in the fight against the improper prescribing of dangerous and addictive prescription drugs.” 

“This is great example of how state and federal collaboration can work to combat prescription drug abuse,” said Kyle Parker, executive director of the Ohio State Pharmacy Board.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Margaret A. Sweeney, Edward F. Feran, and Rebecca C. Lutzko following an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Health and Human Services -- Office of the Inspector General, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy, and the Akron Police Department.

If convicted, the defendants’ sentences will be determined by the Court after review of factors unique to this case, including the defendants’ prior criminal record, if any, the defendants’ roles in the offenses and the characteristics of the violations.  In all cases, the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and in most cases it will be less than the maximum.

An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt.  A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

 

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