Florida Doctor Pleads Guilty To False Statement Relating To Prescribing Opioids
Tampa, Florida – Richard De La Cruz (55, Jacksonville) has pleaded guilty to making false statements relating to health care matters in connection with writing opioid prescriptions. De La Cruz faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.
According to the plea agreement, De La Cruz was a Florida-licensed physician who worked for MD2U, a now-shuttered, Kentucky-based company that provided a network of in-home primary care for patients. MD2U commonly used nurse practitioners, instead of physicians, to conduct in-person examinations and evaluations of patients in the Tampa Bay area, including those who were prescribed opioids.
In mid-2014, the Florida Board of Medicine (“FBOM”) determined that De La Cruz and MD2U’s practice of prescribing controlled substances without an in-person evaluation by a physician violated Florida medical standards and regulations. Contrary to the FBOM ruling, De La Cruz continued to write opiate prescriptions to MD2U patients without personally meeting with and evaluating the patients. De La Cruz concealed this in claims later submitted to Medicare for payment of the opiate prescriptions.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General and the Middle District of Florida Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit. The Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit was created by the Department of Justice to focus on opioid-related health care fraud, using data to identify and prosecute individuals who contribute to the prescription opioid epidemic. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Kelley Howard-Allen and Greg Pizzo.