Montgomery “Pill Mill” Doctor Pleads Guilty to Drug Distribution, Health Care Fraud, and Money Laundering Charges
Montgomery, Ala. – On Tuesday, November 28, 2017, Dr. Gilberto Sanchez, 56, of Cecil, Alabama, pleaded guilty to drug distribution conspiracy, health care fraud, and money laundering charges, announced United States Attorney Louis V. Franklin, Sr. from the Middle District of Alabama.
According to court documents, beginning on an unknown date and continuing until he was arrested on August 1, 2017, Dr. Sanchez operated a “pill mill” through Family Practice, a medical clinic he owned located at 4143 Atlanta Highway in Montgomery, Alabama. A “pill mill” is a medical clinic that is dispensing controlled substances inappropriately, unlawfully, and for non-medical reasons. At Family Practice, Dr. Sanchez conspired with other health care providers working for him to prescribe controlled substances to patients even though they did not actually need the medicines. Among the controlled substances Dr. Sanchez and his colleagues unnecessarily prescribed were oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone, hydromorphone, amphetamine, and fentanyl.
As for the health care fraud charge, the court documents indicate that Dr. Sanchez and his colleagues required patients of Family Practice to return for monthly physical examinations before the patients could receive prescription refills. Such monthly examinations were not medically necessary, as the patients had no real medical condition that required the prescribing of controlled substances in the first place. Dr. Sanchez and the Family Practice employees would then bill health insurance companies and government health insurance programs (including Medicare and Medicaid) for the cost of these unnecessary monthly examinations.
The money laundering charges stem from Dr. Sanchez’s spending the proceeds of his operation of a pill mill. Court documents describe Dr. Sanchez using those proceeds to purchase at least one vehicle and one personal residence located in Montgomery.
Dr. Sanchez’s sentencing date has not yet been set. At sentencing, he faces a maximum of 20 years in prison on the drug conspiracy count and maximum sentences of 10 years imprisonment on the health care fraud and money laundering counts. There is no parole in the federal system. He also faces substantial monetary penalties, restitution, and forfeiture of assets purchased with the proceeds of his crimes.
“We have seen first-hand in Montgomery the harm that our country’s opioid epidemic causes,” stated United States Attorney Franklin. “Too many lives have been destroyed as a result of the illegitimate prescribing of these pills. Dr. Sanchez, and others like him, have led us to this point and I am proud that he will face the consequences of placing profit over the well-being of his patients and our community.”
“The abuse of prescription drugs is a serious problem in our communities’ said Drug Enforcement Administration Assistant Special Agent in Charge Bret Hamilton. “All too often, this abuse leads to addiction, shattered lives, or even death. For the health and safety of our citizens, the Drug Enforcement Administration and our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners will continue to target those who illegally distribute these dangerous drugs.”
“Drug diversion is a growing epidemic in our society that is amplified when trusted professionals abandon their ethical code in the name of greed. These unethical practices are damaging the lives of individuals and families throughout this country,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Acting Special Agent in Charge James E. Dorsey. “IRS CI will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners in an effort to prosecute those illegally dispensing drugs for profit.”
"We depend on doctors to be part of the prescription drug abuse solution—not part of the problem. Dr. Sanchez’s greed-fueled pill mill put the lives of his patients and the integrity of federal health care programs at risk,” said Special Agent in Charge Derrick L. Jackson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. "Our investigators, working with our law enforcement partners, will continue to uproot such dangerous schemes."
This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Tactical Diversion Squad, the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division, and the Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General. The Montgomery County, Alabama Sheriff’s Office, the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners, the Montgomery, Alabama Police Department, and the Opelika, Alabama Police Department all assisted in the investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Jonathan S. Ross, R. Rand Neeley, and Kevin P. Davidson are prosecuting the case.