Mental Health Counselor Indicted for Health Care Fraud and Perjury Offenses Stemming from Montgomery “Pill Mill”
Montgomery, Alabama – On Tuesday, May 29, 2018, a licensed professional counselor was arrested after being indicted by a federal grand jury for her role in working at a Montgomery “pill mill,” announced United States Attorney Louis V. Franklin, Sr. The defendant arrested was Johnnie Chaisson Sanders, 48, of Wetumpka.
According to court documents, Sanders previously provided mental health counseling services at Family Practice, located at 4143 Atlanta Highway in Montgomery. The owner of Family Practice, Dr. Gilberto Sanchez, was a Montgomery physician who has pleaded guilty to drug distribution, health care fraud, and money laundering charges. Four of the other health care providers employed by Family Practice have also pleaded guilty to federal charges. While working at Family Practice, Sanders provided mental health counseling services to patients of Dr. Sanchez who were receiving controlled substances.
The indictment charges Sanders with health care fraud and perjury offenses. As for the health care fraud, the indictment charges Sanders with committing that offense in two different ways. First, Sanders is alleged to have provided bogus diagnoses of mental health conditions for the purpose of allowing Dr. Sanchez to support prescribing unnecessary medications. Second, the indictment states that Sanders collected cash payments from patients for counseling services even though she knew that Dr. Sanchez’s office would bill the patients’ insurance companies for the same services. As for the perjury charge, Sanders allegedly testified before a grand jury and falsely claimed that Dr. Sanchez did not require patients to undergo counseling sessions with her. In fact, as Sanders then knew, Dr. Sanchez required patients who received prescriptions for controlled substances to visit Sanders for mental health counseling.
If convicted, Sanders faces a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment on the health care fraud counts and a maximum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment on the perjury count. She also faces substantial fines and monetary penalties.
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Tactical Diversion Squad, the United States Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General, and the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division. The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners, the Montgomery Police Department, and the Opelika Police Department assisted in this investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan S. Ross is prosecuting the case.