One Physician and Three Nurse Practitioners Charged for Participating in the Operation of a Montgomery “Pill Mill”
Montgomery, Ala. – On Tuesday, December 5, 2017, four individuals were arrested after being indicted by a federal grand jury for their role in operating a “pill mill,” out of a Montgomery, Alabama medical office, announced United States Attorney Louis V. Franklin, Sr. A “pill mill” is a medical clinic that is dispensing controlled substances inappropriately, unlawfully, and for non-medical reasons.
Those four individuals were: (1) Lillian Akwuba, 38, a nurse practitioner residing in Montgomery; (2) Julio Delgado, 55, a physician residing in Homewood, Alabama; (3) Steven Cox, 62, a nurse practitioner residing in Tallassee, Alabama; and (4) Elizabeth Cronier, 69, a nurse practitioner residing in Montgomery.
The indictment alleges that each defendant worked at Family Practice, located at 4143 Atlanta Highway in Montgomery with Dr. Gilberto Sanchez, previously a Montgomery physician, who owned Family Practice. Last week, Dr. Sanchez pleaded guilty in federal court to drug distribution, health care fraud, and money laundering charges.
The indictment in this case alleges that the defendants conspired with Dr. Sanchez to unnecessarily and illegitimately prescribe controlled substances to the patients of Family Practice. Additionally, the indictment charges the defendants with committing health care fraud by causing insurance companies to be billed for unnecessary office visits. The only purpose of those visits were to refill unnecessary medications. Lastly, the indictment alleges that Akwuba conspired with Dr. Sanchez to launder money.
If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment on the drug conspiracy and distribution counts. They face maximum sentences of 10 years imprisonment on the health care fraud counts. Akwuba faces a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment on the money laundering counts. All defendants also could be assessed substantial fines and other monetary penalties.
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case is being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Tactical Diversion Squad, the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division, and the United States 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 assisted with this case. Assistant United States Attorneys Jonathan S. Ross and R. Rand Neeley are prosecuting the case.