Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force Takedown Results in Charges Against 60 Individuals, Including 53 Medical Professionals
Anesthesiologist Jaime Guerrero, 48, of Kentuckiana, Kentucky, was sentenced in federal court in Louisville, Kentucky, to 100 months in prison for his role in the unlawful distribution of controlled substances, including the prescription opioid hydrocodone without a legitimate medical purpose and related crimes, announced U.S. Attorney John E. Kuhn Jr for the Western District of Kentucky.
According to the terms of a prior plea agreement, Guerrero agreed to forfeit his license to practice medicine and real property owned by Guerrero Real Estate Investments LLC. Further, Guerrero agreed to pay $827,000 in victim restitution to nine health care benefit programs.
Guerrero, formerly a medical physician with offices in Louisville and Jeffersonville, Indiana, pleaded guilty to 31 counts of a 35 count Superseding Indictment on Jan. 7, including unlawful distribution or dispensing of controlled substances, health care fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.
“The prescribing practices of a very few physicians in Kentucky have caused immeasurable harm,” said U.S. Attorney Kuhn. “Reckless prescribing encourages abuse, creates addicts and builds the foundation for the scourge of heroin that so many pill addicts turn to. The personal and social costs are no less than tragic. My office will aggressively prosecute doctors like Dr. Guerrero who prescribe narcotics without a legitimate medical purpose. We will seek justice and accountability for the harm they do.”
“Doctors take an oath to ‘first, do no harm.’ Dr. Guerrero violated that oath and today’s sentence is a solemn reminder that the cost of health care fraud is not one just paid in money,” said Special Agent in Charge Howard Marshall for the FBI’s Louisville Division. “The FBI and our law enforcement partners are committed to vigorously investigating those who seek to enrich themselves and threaten the public’s safety through fraudulent health care schemes.”
“This doctor was operating as a drug dealer in a white coat,” said Special Agent in Charge Derrick L. Jackson for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General in Atlanta. “This sentence should be a wake-up call to physicians across the state: if you’re overprescribing narcotics you are facing a lengthy prison sentence.”
“The dangerous overprescribing of opioid drugs by some providers has had tragic consequences for public health in southern Indiana and western Kentucky,” said Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, who co-chairs the Indiana Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force. Its website is www.BitterPill.in.gov. “The Indiana Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of my office worked with our colleagues in the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate and unravel this illegal scheme, hold the defendant accountable and recoup taxpayers’ funds.”
“Addressing the diversion and abuse of controlled substance prescription medications is a top priority of the DEA,” said Special Agent in Charge Timothy J. Plancon for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Detroit Field Division. “In this instance, Jaime Guerrero, formerly an anesthesiologist abused his position of trust and jeopardized the lives of many individuals by dispensing controlled substances to patients without a medical purpose. This sentence should serve as a notice to all medical professionals that if you prescribe medication for personal gain you will be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
According to the plea agreement, from Nov. 1, 2009, continuing through Jan. 1, 2013, Guerrero conspired with others to knowingly and intentionally distribute and dispense, Schedule II and III controlled substances to patients, without a legitimate medical purpose and beyond the bounds of professional medical practice. Beginning Nov. 1, 2009, and continuing through May 8, 2014, Guerrero admitted to distributing and dispensing Schedule II and III controlled substances to patients (listed in counts 2-26) without a legitimate medical purpose beyond the bounds of professional medical practice. Beginning on or about Jan. 6, 2010, and continuing through Sept. 16, 2011, Guerrero knowingly and intentionally distributed and dispensed, and caused to be distributed and dispensed Hydrocodone, a Schedule III controlled substance, to patient S.O., without a legitimate medical purpose and beyond the bounds of professional medical practice, which resulted in S.O.’s death on or about Sept. 24, 2011.
Guerrero further pleaded guilty to three counts of health care fraud for fraudulently billing various health care benefit programs and for submitting fraudulent claims for patient health care counseling. Specifically, on May 26, 2011, June 15, 2011, and June 22, 2011, Guerrero saw more than 100 patients on each of the dates, by himself, and spent approximately three minutes or less with each patient and fraudulently billed various health care benefit programs, for office visits at a higher code than the service provided. Between July 9, 2010, and July 22, 2010, Guerrero travelled outside of the United States and directed staff personnel to provide group counseling sessions for patients in his absence. The group sessions were then billed as individual counseling sessions and as if Guerrero personally provided the service. Additionally, between Jan. 1, 2008, and continuing through June 15, 2012, Guerrero falsely and fraudulently submitted over 100 claims to various health care benefit programs for office visits at a higher code than the service provided; for office visits that were not medically necessary or within the course of usual medical practice; submitting claims for services that were not sufficiently documented in the patient’s medical record; and making claims for office visits as though a physician saw the patient, when in fact, a nurse practitioner saw the patient. Guerrero agreed to pay $827,000 in victim restitution to nine health care benefit programs.
Finally, Guerrero pleaded guilty to a single money laundering charge for redeeming (paying the taxes) on a building located at 1201 West Wall Street in Jeffersonville with $89,556.25 in cash derived from unlawful activity - the unlawful dispensing and distribution of controlled substances and health care fraud.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph Ansari and Lettricea Jefferson-Webb and was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Indiana and Kentucky Medicaid Fraud Control Units and Louisville Metro Police Department.