Louisiana Physician’s Assistant Sentenced to Prison for Scheme to Unlawfully Distribute Controlled Substances
A Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based physician’s assistant was sentenced to seven years in prison today for his role in a scheme to unlawfully distribute prescriptions for thousands of oxycodone pills.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Brandon J. Fremin of the Middle District of Louisiana, Special Agent in Charge Stephen G. Azzam of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)’s New Orleans Field Division, Special Agent in Charge C.J. Porter of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Dallas Field Office and Acting Special Agent in Charge Anthony T. Riedlinger of the FBI’s New Orleans Field Office made the announcement.
Christopher William Armstrong, 45, of Prairieville, Louisiana, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge John W. deGravelles of the Middle District of Louisiana, who also ordered Armstrong to serve three years of supervised release and forfeit $168,000. In November 2018, Armstrong pleaded guilty to one count of an indictment charging him with conspiracy to distribute oxycodone, a Schedule II controlled substance.
Armstrong was a licensed physician’s assistant employed by Louisiana Spine & Sports LLC, a pain management clinic located in Baton Rouge, from approximately August 2004 through January 2014. As part of his guilty plea, Armstrong admitted that he logged into the clinic’s computer system and, without authorization, created fraudulent prescriptions for controlled substances such as oxycodone. He then printed the fraudulent prescriptions and either forged the signatures of the clinic’s physicians on the prescriptions or caused those physicians to unknowingly sign the prescriptions. Armstrong further admitted that he distributed the fraudulent prescriptions to co-conspirators, whom he instructed to fill the prescriptions at pharmacies and return the controlled substances to him in exchange for cash payments. Armstrong admitted that in an effort to conceal the scheme, he deleted records of the fraudulent prescriptions from the clinic’s computer system. As part of his plea, Armstrong admitted that from approximately May 2009 through March 2014, he fraudulently generated prescriptions for at least 40,470 oxycodone pills.
The case was investigated by the DEA, HHS-OIG and the FBI, and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Louisiana, with assistance from the East Baton Rouge District Attorney’s Office. Trial Attorney Justin M. Woodard of the Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Demetrius D. Sumner of the Middle District of Louisiana are prosecuting the case.
The Medicare Fraud Strike Force is part of a joint initiative between the Department of Justice and HHS to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country. Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which maintains 14 strike forces operating in 23 districts, has charged nearly 4,000 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $14 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.