Nevada Cardiologist Arrested for Unlawful Distribution of Prescription Opioids and Health Care Fraud
An Elko, Nevada, cardiologist was arrested yesterday on 39-charges of unlawful distribution of prescription opioids and Medicare and Medicaid fraud, announced Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Acting U.S. Attorney Steven W. Myhre for the District of Nevada, Special Agent in Charge Aaron C. Rouse for the FBI’s Las Vegas office, Special Agent in Charge David J. Downing for the DEA’s Los Angeles field office, and Special Agent in Charge Christian Schrank for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office Los Angeles Region.
Dr. Devendra I. Patel, aka Devendrakumar I. Patel, 58, of Elko, is charged with 36-counts of distribution of controlled substances such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, and three-counts of health care fraud. Patel is a cardiologist at his medical practice Northeastern Nevada Cardiology. The statutory maximum penalty for distribution of a controlled substance is 10 years in prison and the maximum penalty for health care fraud is 10 years in prison. He is scheduled to appear in federal court on Wednesday in Reno.
According to the 39-count indictment that was unsealed today, it is alleged that, from May 2014 to September 2017, Patel routinely prescribed fentanyl, hydrocodone, and oxycodone for his patients without a legitimate medical purpose and that he fraudulently billed Medicare and Medicaid for medical tests that he did not perform. The indictment alleges that Patel performed EKGs on his patients, so he could then order nuclear stress tests which he did not administer. He allegedly used a poorly calibrated machine and presented his patients with fraudulent X-Rays, in order to deceive his patients into thinking they had coronary issues that needed to be treated by him.
"Today we are facing the worst drug crisis in American history, with one American dying of a drug overdose every nine minutes," said Attorney General Sessions. "This summer, I ordered the creation of the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, which brings together data analysts and Assistant United States Attorneys from throughout the country to prosecute doctors engaged in opioid-related health care fraud. Additionally, I assigned a dozen of our top federal prosecutors to focus solely on this problem where the epidemic is at its worst. Prosecuting these cases help cut off the supply of drugs and stop addiction from spreading. These prosecutors are already delivering results, filing charges against doctors in Western Pennsylvania and Nevada. We will file many more charges in the months to come—because the Department of Justice will be relentless in hunting down drug dealers and turning the tide of this epidemic."
“Dr. Patel is the first person to be charged in Nevada since the formation of the Justice Department’s Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Myhre.” The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to turning the tide of the prescription opioid epidemic that is plaguing our communities. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute individuals who contribute to this scourge.”
"Despite his physician's oath to do no harm, Dr. Patel recklessly prescribed opioids, for no legitimate medical purpose," stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Rouse. "The FBI is confident that today's arrest will send a message to other physicians that are prescribing opioids outside the scope of legitimate medical care. We are committed to using every tool in our arsenal to battle the opioid crisis in the state of Nevada."
“Our Country is in the midst of a devastating opioid crisis and DEA is using every resource available to identify the traffickers and facilitators fueling addiction in our communities,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Downing. “Healthcare professionals who abuse the public’s trust and prescribe or dispense drugs purely for profit are drug dealers, and they’re going to be held accountable.”
“To combat this opioid epidemic, OIG will never hesitate to investigate health professionals more concerned with profits than patients,” said HHS-OIG Special Agent in Charge Schrank. “Inappropriately diagnosing patients and then prescribing medications is only compounded by the greed of sticking taxpayers with the bill.”
The case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Secret Service, Elko Combined Narcotics Unit, Nevada Department of Public Safety, and the Elko County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kilby Macfadden and Sue Fahami are prosecuting the case.
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Over 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016. The majority of these deaths can be attributed to opioids, including illicit fentanyl. For information about the harmful effects of illicit drug use, visit www.JustThinkTwice.com for teens, and www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com for parents, educators and caregivers.
The Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit is a program that utilizes data to help combat the devastating opioid crisis. The District of Nevada was selected as one of 12 districts nationally to participate in the pilot program. The District of Nevada has assigned an experienced prosecutor that focuses solely on investigating and prosecuting health care fraud related to medical professionals who prescribe opioids, that unlawfully divert of dispense prescription opioids for illegitimate purposes.