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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Nevada

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Physician Sentenced To 10 Years In Prison For Distribution Of Oxycodone

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – A Nevada physician practicing as a specialist in pain management was sentenced today to 10 years in prison for distribution of large quantities of highly addictive prescription opioids, including oxycodone, and other controlled substances without a medical purpose, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Steven W. Myhre for the District of Nevada. In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Kent J. Dawson ordered a fine in the amount of $2.5 million.

Following a 10-week jury trial, on March 23, 2017, Dr. Henri Wetselaar, 93, was found guilty of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances (oxycodone); distribution of controlled substances; money laundering; and structuring of money transactions. Co-defendant, David A. Litwin, 58, was found guilty of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and distribution of controlled substances. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 5, 2017.

According to the indictment, Wetselaar performed house calls and maintained a medical practice on the east side of Las Vegas. He prescribed large amounts of prescription drugs, including oxycodone, hydrocodone, Xanax and Soma, to persons for no legitimate medical purpose. Wetselaar and Litwin conspired with each other and local drug dealers to distribute the prescription drugs prescribed by Wetselaar in and around Las Vegas. Additionally, Wetselaar wired $105,000 for the purchase of a house using money obtained from the drug distribution activities. He also attempted to evade the bank reporting requirements by making dozens of cash deposits less than $10,000 in a 12-month period to three different banks.

The case was investigated by the DEA, FBI, IRS-Criminal Investigations, the Nevada Department of Public Safety, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the U.S. Department of Labor-OIG, and the U.S. Human and Health Services-OIG. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Cristina Silva and Andrew Duncan.

The Nevada U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to combat the prescription opioid epidemic and continues to charge local physicians who illegally sell or distribute prescription opioids for a non-medical purpose. Wetselaar is the fifth doctor sentenced for illegal distribution of drugs in recent years. Other cases include:

  • In April 2016, Dr. Robert Rand and eight others were charged with conspiracy to unlawfully distribute prescription drugs. Rand is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 23, 2017.

  • In December 2015, Dr. Sebastian Paulin Jr. was sentenced to 24 months in prison for selling prescription pain medications and Dr. Mahesh Kuthuru was sentenced to 28 months in prison for the unlawfully distributing prescription painkillers.

  • In October 2014, Dr. Victor Bruce was sentenced to 46 months for unlawfully writing oxycodone prescriptions for persons with no medical need for it.

  • In September 2014, Dr. Vinay Bararia was sentenced to 44 months in prison for unlawfully selling hydrocodone and oxycodone, both prescription opioids.

 

The overdose rates for synthetic opioids and pain relievers have continued to rise over the past several years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 144 drug overdose deaths every day and 63% of those deaths are pharmaceutical opioids or heroin related. Approximately 75% of new heroin users report having abused prescription opioids before using heroin. Heroin-related overdose deaths have more than quadrupled since 2010. For information on opioid overdose and how you can manage pain without prescription drugs, go to http://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/opioids/index.html. If you have a tip or information about illegal sales or distribution of prescription opioids, including oxycodone, hydrocodone, etc., by doctors and pharmacies call the DEA at 1-877-RX-Abuse (1-877-792-2873).

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Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Prescription Drugs
Component(s): 
Updated August 1, 2017