Colorado Doctor Sentenced To Federal Prison For Illegally Distributing Oxycodone, Defrauding Employee Benefit Plans, And Falsifying Patient Files
Defendant John Van Wu’s Plea Agreement Includes Lifetime Ban On Applying for a License to Practice Medicine
DENVER – United States Attorney Jason R. Dunn announced that Dr. John Van Wu, age 50, of Golden, was sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson to serve 51 months (4 years and 3 months) in federal prison for mail fraud and obstruction of justice charges as well as distributing oxycodone outside the usual course of medical practice. Following the prison sentence, Wu will serve 3 years on supervised release. Wu was also ordered to pay restitution of $94,829.38. The defendant appeared at the sentencing hearing in custody, and was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals after the sentence was pronounced.
Wu was convicted of mail fraud and obstruction of justice charges following a jury trial in April, 2019. He later pleaded guilty, pursuant to a plea agreement, to a charge of distributing oxycodone outside the usual course of medical practice and obstruction.
According to documents and testimony presented at trial, Wu operated a medical clinic at locations in west Denver between January 2011 and March 2015. During that time period the defendant devised a scheme in which he billed employee benefit programs and insurers for services that were never actually rendered nor medically necessary. During the trial over a dozen of the doctor’s former patients testified that they did not have many of the ailments described in their medical files and did not get the expensive procedures billed to insurance. For example, patient files described days-long nosebleeds followed by nasal cauterization procedures, but patients testified that neither happened. Other files described diagnoses related to migraine headaches and frequent administrations of injections to treat those agents. Patients testified that those, too, did not occur. Testimony at trial also established that the defendant billed approximately 95% of his office visits as the longest, most expensive, and highest-reimbursing type of office visit, despite the fact that his patients had relatively simple and routine ailments that did not need that level of service. During his testimony, the defendant admitted that he shredded patient files while the investigation was ongoing.
After the trial, pursuant to the plea agreement filed in Court, the defendant pleaded guilty to a separate charge
s of distributing oxycodone outside the usual course of medical practice and for no legitimate reason. According to the facts contained in that plea agreement, Wu also falsified a corresponding patient file, documenting that a patient needed oxycodone when he fell down some stairs causing lower back pain so bad that the patient could “barely stand” and was “moving around in his wheelchair.” However, the patient had never used or been confined to a wheelchair and had never used oxycodone.
The defendant does not currently have a license to practice medicine. As part of the plea agreement, Wu agreed to never again apply for a license to practice medicine in any jurisdiction. He also agreed to pay restitution to the victims of his fraud.
“Doctors take an oath – and in this case Dr. John Van Wu disregarded it,” said U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn. “To be clear, he lied to the government and sold dangerous narcotics for no medical purpose. He deserves this prison sentence.”
“The Honorable Judge Brooke Jackson emphasized the harm to the community done by Dr. John Wu with the prescribing/distribution of Oxycodone for no legitimate purpose,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Deanne Reuter. “Dr. Wu, a registrant, who not only pled guilty to Distribution of a Controlled Substance but was also found guilty of insurance fraud and obstruction of justice, failed the community he was entrusted to help. The DEA will continue to investigate registrants who cause harm to the public and fuel the opioid epidemic. This case shows the opioid epidemic is being fought at all levels to include professionals in a position of trust.”
“Healthcare fraud victimizes the individuals involved and the community at-large,” said U.S. Department of Labor Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) Regional Director Jim Purcell in Kansas City. “Fraudulently billing for unnecessary or non-existent healthcare treatments passes the costs on to others wishing to obtain health insurance. The Department of Labor remains committed to ensuring that benefits are not abused, and anyone found guilty of committing fraud is held accountable.”
This case was jointly investigated by EBSA and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The defendant was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Bryan D. Fields and Conor Flanigan.