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Press Release

Jasper Pain Clinic Physician Pleads Guilty to Illegally Dispensing Narcotics

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Alabama

BIRMINGHAM -- A Vestavia Hills physician and owner of a Jasper neurology and pain clinic pleaded guilty today in federal court to illegal drug distribution charges for dispensing narcotic painkillers without a legitimate medical reason, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance and Drug Enforcement Administration Assistant Special Agent in Charge Clay A. Morris.


Dr. MUHAMMAD WASIM ALI, 51, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler to 10 counts of unlawfully distributing controlled substances "outside the scope of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose" to three people working undercover with law enforcement. Ali owns and practiced at the Walker Rural Health Care/Jasper Neurological Care clinic. Following his March arrest, Ali voluntarily surrendered his DEA Controlled Substances Registration, which enabled him to write prescriptions. Ali’s sentencing date has not been set.


According to the charges and Ali’s plea, he dispensed 1,100 oxycodone pills to three undercover officers between August 2014 and November 2014 without conducting acceptable medical examinations or requesting and/or reviewing medical records. Ali’s medical files for the three individuals listed multiple falsified examinations and multiple falsified and baseless diagnoses, according to the plea agreement.


“Proper use of prescribed opioids for pain management is an important part of the practice of medicine, but abuse of these drugs is deadly,” Vance said. “Alabama leads the nation in the number of per capita prescriptions for opioid painkillers, and prescription-drug abusers often shift to heroin abuse. This tragic trend contributes to our epidemic overdose death rates,” she said. “My office and our law enforcement partners are working to ensure that doctors don’t turn into illegal drug dealers.”  


 “The use, abuse and distribution of opioid-based controlled pharmaceutical drugs are at epidemic proportions in Alabama and across the United States,” Morris said. “Unfortunately, a small number of physicians have abandoned their Hippocratic oath and responsibilities to their patients and communities. Blinded by the allure of greed, deadly and highly addictive pharmaceutical drugs were distributed without regard. The abuse of opioid-based drugs can, and often does have deadly consequences,” he said. “The DEA is committed to protecting our communities from the destruction that comes from drug abuse. Today's court actions should send a clear message to anyone who illegally distributes drugs that law enforcement will work tirelessly in the pursuit of justice and to protect our most important resources -- our communities, children and families.” 


Ali was scheduled to go to trial today on a 36-count indictment that included the 10 counts of dispensing controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose to undercover officers, 26 similar counts of dispensing controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose to patients, plus two counts of illegally possessing with intent to distribute controlled substances, mostly opioid painkillers. He reached a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Friday.


As part of that agreement, Ali pleaded guilty to the 10 counts of prescribing oxycodone without a legitimate medical purpose, consented to forfeit $2,450 to the government as proceeds of that illegal activity, and to pay a fine of $85,000. In exchange, the government agreed to dismiss the remaining counts in the indictment. Further, in the plea agreement, the parties agree that Dr. Ali should be sentenced to 30 months in prison. Judge Coogler accepted Ali’s guilty plea today, but reserved his decision on whether to accept the 30-month prison sentence until Ali’s sentencing hearing. The agreement between Ali and the government is a binding plea agreement, so either party may withdraw from it if the court does not accept the stipulated sentence. 


            Ali was one of three Birmingham-area physicians charged this spring as part of DEA's Operation Pilluted in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, which focused on reducing trafficking and abuse of pharmaceuticals.


            Last month, U.S. District Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins sentenced a Birmingham physician, PETER ALAN LODEWICK, 73, to four years’ probation for illegally supplying controlled substances. She also prohibited him from ever seeking reinstatement of his DEA registration. Lodewick, a physician at Lodewick Diabetes Center on Montclair Road, pleaded guilty to one count of assisting someone else in acquiring the narcotic painkiller, oxycodone, by "misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception, and subterfuge."


In September, Judge Hopkins sentenced ERNEST ALBERT CLAYBON, 72, a physician in Midfield, for distributing methadone without a legitimate medical purpose. She sentenced him to four years' probation, fined him $20,000 and ordered him to surrender his medical license and his DEA registration.


            The DEA, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency investigated the case, which Assistant U.S. Attorneys Chinelo Diké-Minor, Robin Beardsley Mark and Elizabeth A. Holt are prosecuting.



Updated November 9, 2015