SEATTLE PHYSICIAN AND DENTIST PLEAD GUILTY TO UNLAWFUL DIVERSION OF CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES
Hydrocodone Repeatedly Abused By Medical Professionals
In separate, but related criminal cases, Doctor KEITH N. LEVITT and Doctor JACOB A. KERST, both Seattle area medical practitioners, appeared today in federal district court in Seattle and entered guilty pleas to the felony offense of acquiring a controlled substance (hydrocodone) by misrepresentation, deception, and subterfuge, in violation of federal law. This offense is punishable by up to four years in prison, a two hundred fifty thousand dollar fine, and a period of supervised release of up to one year.
Court documents indicate that during 2007 through January 2008, Dr. LEVITT was the owner, operator, and Medical Director of Regeneration Medispa and Salon, a clinic located at 1501 Queen Anne Avenue North in Seattle, specializing in botox, laser, and chemical and injection-based cosmetic treatments. Dr. LEVITT, 50, is a trained physician, with a board certification in anesthesiology. Dr. LEVITT ran the clinic and performed medical procedures there. Dr. LEVITT has previously been the subject of disciplinary actions by medical boards in Maryland, Arizona, and in Washington, for violations, including that he was unlawfully prescribing and acquiring controlled substances.
During 2007, and continuing through January 2008, Dr. LEVITT engaged in multiple unlawful methods in order to acquire hydrocodone, a Schedule III controlled substance, by misrepresentation, deception, and subterfuge. Hydrocodone is a highly addictive drug used to treat pain, and is often the subject of drug abuse.
In June 2007, Dr. LEVITT placed an order with a reputable drug supply company, Henry Schein, Inc., for 600 pills of 10 mg hydrocodone. While ordering such substances ostensibly for the treatment of Medispa patients, Dr. LEVITT intended to divert the drugs to his own personal use. Upon receiving the drugs, Dr. LEVITT unlawfully removed the drugs from Medispa and diverted the drugs to his own use.
In addition, on multiple occasions during 2007, Dr. LEVITT, acting as authorizing physician, called in prescriptions to pharmacies for quantities of hydrocodone in the name of a third party, and then had the third party pick up the drugs and return the drugs to him for his own use.
In addition, on several occasions during the Fall of 2007 through January 2008, after his own DEA number, required to lawfully dispense prescriptions, had been suspended by the DEA, Dr. LEVITT called in or caused to be called in prescriptions to pharmacies for quantities of hydrocodone for himself and another individual using the DEA numbers of other physicians employed at Medispa. There were several such prescriptions and all of them were not authorized by the physician whose DEA numbers were used and were done without the physicians’ knowledge.
In addition, on several occasions during the Fall of 2007 through January 2008, Dr. LEVITT had another physician, Dr. JACOB A. KERST, whom LEVITT knew to be also unlawfully diverting hydrocodone, phone in prescriptions for LEVITT. Upon obtaining the hydrocodone from the pharmacies, LEVITT then split the drugs with KERST.
JACOB A. KERST, 39, is a licensed dentist whose office was located in the Century Square Building at 4th and Pike Streets in Seattle, Washington. Dr. KERST has been the subject of previous interactions with the Washington Physician’s Health Program in Seattle relating to the abuse of controlled substances.
During 2007, and continuing through January 2008, Dr. KERST engaged in multiple unlawful methods in order to acquire hydrocodone by misrepresentation, deception, and subterfuge.
In May 2007 and in November 2007, Dr. KERST placed orders with Henry Schein, Inc., for 100 pill quantities of 10 mg. hydrocodone. While ordering such substances for the treatment of patients, KERST intended to divert the drugs, and did unlawfully divert the drugs to his own use. In January 2008, KERST placed a subsequent order with Henry Schein, Inc. for 200 10 mg hydrocodone pills and two bottles of hydrocodone liquid, which substances were delivered to him at his office for the treatment of dental patients. Dr. KERST unlawfully diverted these drugs to his own use, and as well, provided a portion of the drugs to Dr. LEVITT, whom KERST knew to be unlawfully abusing such drugs.
In addition, on multiple occasions during 2007, and continuing through on or about January 2008, Dr. KERST called in prescriptions to pharmacies for quantities of hydrocodone in the name of two other individuals, one of whom was Dr. LEVITT. Dr. KERST then split the drugs with the third party in whose name the prescription was phoned in. None of these prescriptions were authorized by Dr. KERST for a legitimate medical reason.
KERST is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Robert S. Lasnik on October 3, 2008. LEVITT is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge John C. Coughenour on October 24, 2008.
Earlier this summer, Dr. LAWRENCE L. PARRIS, a family practice physician in Bothell, Washington, and Dr. LAWRENCE J. GOGENOLA, a Bellevue, Washington, dermatologist, pleaded guilty in federal district court to unlawful possession of controlled substances, including oxycodone and demerol. They are both awaiting sentencing.
National statistics show an increasing level of unlawful diversion and abuse of pharmaceutical controlled substances, as well as overdoses of such drugs resulting in rising medical costs, serious injury, and death. The unlawful possession and diversion of such substances by individuals – be it by patients, non-patients, or by medical professionals, contributes to this escalating problem, poses a danger to the user and to others, and constitutes a violation of law.
This case is part of a continuing Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation focused upon the unlawful diversion of pharmaceutical controlled substances within the Western District of Washington and elsewhere.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ronald J. Friedman.
For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.