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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Pennsylvania

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Northeastern Pennsylvania Doctor Ordered Detained Pending Sentencing

SCRANTON—The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, announced today that Dr. Fuhai Li, age 53, of Milford, Pennsylvania, has surrendered to the U.S. Marshals in Scranton following an order for detention issued by Senior U.S. District Court Judge A. Richard Caputo on July 10, 2018.

According to United States Attorney David J. Freed, Dr. Li was found guilty on June 4, 2018 of unlawfully prescribing oxycodone and other opioids to 23 former patients, including a Honesdale woman who died as a result of using the pills, after a five-week trial before Judge Caputo.  The jury also convicted Dr. Li of unlawfully prescribing oxycodone to a pregnant woman outside the usual course of medical practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose. That woman gave birth to an opioid-dependent baby 11 days after Dr Li prescribed her 120 oxycodone 30 milligram tablets. A neo-natal specialist testified that the baby spent ten days in intensive care withdrawing from the oxycodone prescribed to his mother by Dr Li.

During the trial, prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office presented the testimony of 19 former patients and three former employees of Dr. Li, eight pharmacists, three other physicians, an expert on pain management, the medical records for 39 former patients of Dr Li, and the testimony of federal law enforcement agents and investigators from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and its Diversion Division, and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) special agents.

The jury found that Dr Li repeatedly prescribed oxycodone and other opioids outside the usual course of medical practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose.

After the jury’s verdict, prosecutors asked that Dr. Li be immediately detained pending sentencing, which is scheduled for September 2018.  Judge Caputo released Dr. Li under conditions which included electronic monitoring by the U.S. Probation Office.  U.S. Attorney Freed appealed the release order to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. In response to an Order of the Third Circuit issued on July 9, 2018, Judge Caputo vacated his previous order releasing Dr. Li and ordered him detained pending sentencing.

The four-year long investigation of this case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and its Diversion Division, the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division, and the Pike County District Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michelle Olshefski, Francis P. Sempa, and Evan Gotlob prosecuted the case.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.

This case was also brought as part of a district wide initiative to combat the nationwide epidemic regarding the use and distribution of heroin and other opioids. Led by the United States Attorney’s Office, the Heroin Initiative targets heroin and opioid traffickers operating in the Middle District of Pennsylvania and is part of a coordinated effort among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who commit heroin related offenses.

The maximum penalty under federal law is life in prison, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine. The drug distribution resulting in death charge also carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant's educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.

 

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Topic(s): 
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Updated July 11, 2018