Montgomery County Doctor Agrees to Pay $1.4 Million to Resolve Allegations of Improper Opioid Prescribing After Pleading Guilty to Related Criminal Charges
PHILADELPHIA – U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Montgomery County physician Spiro Y. Kassis, M.D., of Plymouth Township, PA, has agreed to pay $1.4 million, has committed to never obtaining a controlled substance registration, and has consented to a 15-year exclusion from Medicare and Medicaid in order to resolve allegations that he improperly prescribed Schedule II controlled substances to patients between July 1, 2014 and February 14, 2017. This civil settlement is announced after Kassis already pled guilty to criminal charges for illegal distribution of controlled substances and awaits sentencing.
The settlement resolves allegations that Kassis wrote improper Schedule II prescriptions, including opioids, for his patients when those prescriptions had no legitimate medical purpose and were not issued in the usual course of professional practice. In addition, it resolves allegations that Kassis deposited and commingled the proceeds from the sale of improper Schedule II prescriptions into various bank accounts.
Kassis has already pled guilty to 14 counts of illegal distribution of controlled substances in a related criminal case, for which he is scheduled to be sentenced in January 2020. Kassis claimed to be a specialist in psychiatry and addiction medicine, and operated medical offices in East Norriton Township, PA and Scranton, PA. He used his offices to operate a prescription “pill mill,” whereby he sold medically unnecessary prescriptions for opioids such as oxycodone. Kassis sold prescriptions to so-called patients for approximately $200 cash each. At the East Norriton office, he saw approximately 45 “patients” per day. As each person came in, he collected $200 cash from the patient, counted the money, and then issued the requested prescriptions electronically to the patient’s pharmacy. Often, Kassis issued dangerous combinations of prescriptions including oxycodone, methadone, and buprenorphine, all to the same patient.
“This settlement illustrates my Office’s dedication to ensuring that physicians who engage in illegal distribution of opioids and other controlled substances are held accountable using all of our enforcement tools, including powerful civil ones,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “This case is an excellent example of how collaboration between our civil and criminal divisions, as well as our federal and local law enforcement partners, can lead to just results. We will continue our aggressive pursuit of doctors who violate their duties and break the law by engaging in illegal opioid prescribing.”
“Dr. Kassis pleaded guilty to numerous federal drug distribution charges for his illegal distribution of oxycodone over a several-year period. In addition to his pending sentencing on these charges, Dr. Kassis has agreed to pay a significant settlement that represents the money he made from his illegal activities,” said Jonathan A. Wilson, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Philadelphia Field Division. “Doctors that seek to betray their professional oath and engage in this type of illegal activity will be subject to both criminal charges and significant civil penalties.”
“Settlements like these are critical to ensure that doctors writing improper opioid prescriptions reimbursed by Medicare and Medicaid are held responsible for their misconduct and barred from participating in these programs for a substantial number of years,” said Maureen R. Dixon, Special Agent in Charge for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General. “HHS-OIG will continue to work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Civil Division and our other law enforcement partners to ensure the integrity of the Medicare and Medicaid programs.”
“This case began as part of a larger effort to investigate a number of pill-pushing doctors in Montgomery County. This doctor, Kassis, who had taken an oath to do no harm, was in fact keeping those suffering from substance abuse addicted and in danger of overdosing through his actions, all for monetary gain,” said Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele.
The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration; Federal Bureau of Investigation; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General; and Montgomery County Detective Bureau’s Narcotics Enforcement Team. The civil investigation and settlement were handled by Assistant United States Attorneys Anthony D. Scicchitano and Sarah Grieb. The related criminal charges are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney M. Beth Leahy and Special Assistant United States Attorney James Price, who was cross-designated by the Montgomery County District Attorney for the prosecution.
The claims resolved by the civil settlement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.