Worcester Psychiatrist Convicted of Unlawful Distribution of Controlled Substances
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts
Defendant prescribed combinations of highly addictive benzodiazepines and stimulants
BOSTON – A Worcester psychiatrist was convicted by a federal jury today of illegally prescribing controlled substances.
Mohamad Och, 67, was convicted following an 11-day jury trial of three counts of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance. U.S. District Court Judge Margaret R. Guzman scheduled sentencing for Feb. 16, 2024. Och was arrested and charged in July 2021.
“Dr. Och deliberately and recklessly jeopardized patient safety by repeatedly prescribing dangerous combinations of benzodiazepines and stimulants,” said Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy. “This case underscores our office’s unwavering commitment to justice, patient safety and the responsible management of healthcare resources. Ensuring the well-being of patients is paramount.”
“The DEA is committed to ensuring that all registrants are in compliance with the required regulations, which are enforceable through the Controlled Substances Act,” said Brian D. Boyle, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, New England Division. “Failure to do so increases the potential for diversion and jeopardizes public health and public safety. DEA pledges to work with our law enforcement and regulatory partners to ensure these rules and regulations are followed.”
“Handing out controlled substances as casually as Halloween candy is a clear-cut crime, in which Dr. Och abrogated his professional ethics. Going forward, this experienced psychiatrist will have plenty of time to analyze his incredibly poor decisions that led to today’s conviction,” said Jodi Cohen, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division. “The FBI, meanwhile, will continue to pursue investigations involving psychiatrists like Dr. Och.”
“Dr. Och disregarded the wellbeing of his patients by illegally prescribing controlled substances,” said Special Agent in Charge Roberto Coviello of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General. “We will continue working tirelessly alongside our law enforcement partners to ensure that corrupt medical practitioners who unlawfully overprescribe addictive drugs are brought to justice.”
Och was a licensed psychiatrist who owned and operated Island Counseling Center (ICC), in Worcester, Mass., and has practiced psychiatry elsewhere in Massachusetts, including Nantucket. Among other services, Och was authorized to prescribe Schedule II-IV controlled substances to patients.
Och repeatedly prescribed a combination of benzodiazepines and stimulants outside of the usual course of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose. Specifically, on multiple occasions between August 2016 and February 2017, Och knowingly issued prescriptions for Adderall (a Schedule II amphetamine) and Xanax (a Schedule IV benzodiazepine) to undercover agents working for the DEA. Evidence at trial showed that amphetamines have a high potential for abuse and present serious cardiovascular risks. Evidence also showed the risks presented by mixing Xanax, a depressant, with a stimulant like Adderall.
Evidence at trial established that the defendant prescribed such highly-addictive medications without doing proper psychiatric examinations, without obtaining prior medical records, and without administering diagnostic tests (including urinalyses or blood tests) – even when faced with facts that the undercover patients may have been participating in drug diversion. Furthermore, the defendant did not discuss or review medication side effects, their conditions’ symptoms, or the risks and benefits of taking drugs like Adderall and Xanax with the undercover agents – despite documenting in medical records that he had done so.
The charge of illegal prescription of a Schedule II controlled substance provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $1 million. The charge of illegal prescription of a Schedule IV controlled substance provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $1 million. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.
Acting U.S. Attorney Levy, DEA SAC Boyle, FBI SAC Cohen and HHS-OIG SAC Coviello made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys John T. Mulcahy and Kaitlin R. O’Donnell of the Criminal Division are prosecuting the case.
Updated November 17, 2023