West Virginia Physician Convicted of Illegal Opioid Distribution to Patients
CLARKSBURG, WEST VIRGINIA— Following a six-day trial, Dr. Felix Brizuela, Jr., of Harrison City, Pennsylvania, was found guilty on January 14, 2018 of 15 counts of “Distribution of Controlled Substances Outside the Bounds of Professional Medical Practice,” United States Attorney Bill Powell announced.
After two days of deliberations, the jury found Brizuela, age 57, guilty of 15 of 21 counts of the illegal distribution of controlled substances. The jury acquitted Brizuela of the anti-kickback counts and six distribution counts in the indictment.
Brizuela was indicted in January 2018 on 21 counts of “Distribution of Controlled Substances Outside the Bounds of Professional Medical Practice,” one count of “Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances Outside the Bounds of Professional Medical Practice,” and 15 counts of “Illegal Remuneration in Violation of the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute.”
The controlled substances illegally distributed by Brizuela included Oxycodone, Fentanyl and Oxymorphone. They were distributed without legitimate medical purpose and outside the scope of professional practice in Monongalia County, West Virginia between 2013 and 2015.
“Illegal distribution of opioids by physicians has been and continues to be a high priority for prosecution in this district. These cases are not easy, and it is only through the dedicated work of our prosecution and law enforcement teams that this case was able to be successfully prosecuted. Physicians who believe they can hide behind their lab coats or medical licenses, and simultaneously stoke the fires of the opioid epidemic and profit from it are sadly mistaken,” Powell said.
Brizuela faces up to 20 years incarceration and a fine of up to $250,000 for each of the distribution counts. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed will be based upon the seriousness of the offenses, prior criminal conduct, if any, and other factors considered by the court.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sarah E. Wagner and Robert H. McWilliams, Jr. prosecuted the case on behalf of the government. The Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, WV Offices of the Insurance Commissioner Fraud Division, WV Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, Office of Ohio Attorney General Health Care Fraud, Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, the Hancock-Brook-Weirton Drug Task Force, a HIDTA-funded initiative, the Greater Harrison County Drug Task Force, a HIDTA-funded initiative, West Virginia State Police, the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office, and the Weirton Police Department investigated.
These charges are the result of investigations supported by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) under the Attorney General-led Synthetic Opioid Surge (SOS)/Special Operations Division (SOD) Project Clean Sweep. This initiative seeks to reduce the supply of synthetic opioids in “hot spot” areas previously identified by the Attorney General of the United States, thereby reducing drug overdoses and drug overdose deaths, and identify wholesale distribution networks and sources of supply operating nationally and internationally.
Senior U.S. District Judge Irene M. Keeley presided.