Court Orders Largest Diversion Civil Penalty against a Physician in Southern District Of Georgia History
SAVANNAH, GA: The United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia entered a default judgment against Dr. Firoz Patka, of Martinez, Georgia, totaling $1.2 million. In May 2017, the United States filed a complaint against Dr. Patka for violations of the Controlled Substances Act based on his pre-signing of prescriptions involving opioids and other controlled substances. After being served with the complaint, Dr. Patka failed to answer or otherwise appear in the case. After an evidentiary hearing related to Dr. Patka’s liability and damages, the Court ordered that Dr. Patka be held civilly liable to the United States for $1.2 million in penalties.
DEA initiated an investigation into Dr. Patka’s practices in 2015 after receiving reports of his illegal prescription practices. Dr. Patka practiced medicine in Louisville, Georgia; Hephzibah, Georgia; and Thomas, Georgia. Based on its investigation, DEA determined that on no fewer than 299 occasions, Dr. Patka pre-signed a prescription for a Schedule II controlled substance, in violation of a physician’s responsibilities under the Controlled Substances Act. The entry of the $1.2 million judgment against Dr. Patka serves as the largest diversion penalty assessed against an individual physician for Controlled Substance Act violations in the history of the Southern District of Georgia and, based on information collected by DEA, the second largest penalty against a physician across the country for this type of conduct.
“Medical professionals—and particularly physicians—must serve as a bulwark against prescription drug abuse. When physicians fail to meet their obligations, this Office, working together with our partners at DEA, will step in and use every tool we have available to protect the public,” said U.S. Attorney Bobby L. Christine.
Robert J. Murphy, the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division commented on the case, “The sharp increase in consumption of opiates being distributed for non-medical reasons continues to be a major concern. Consequently, DEA Diversion Investigators will continue to pursue physicians and other medical practitioners who engage in egregious prescribing practices. This record-setting civil penalty in the state of Georgia shows that DEA, the entire law enforcement community, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are committed to making sure, that physicians and other medical practitioners are abiding by proper prescribing guidelines.”
U.S. Attorney Christine commended the hard work and dedication of the DEA Savannah Resident Office, which investigated the case. Group Supervisor George M. Taylor and Diversion Investigator George Zuban led the investigation with assistance from Diversion Investigators Dwayne Jeffcoat and Michael Jones and Diversion Program Manager David M. Hargroder.
The United States previously reached civil settlements with multiple physician assistants involved in the alleged scheme. Assistant United States Attorneys Shannon H. Statkus (Civil Chief) and J. Thomas Clarkson (Deputy Chief) represented the U.S. Attorney’s Office, with assistance from Assistant United States Attorneys Bradford Patrick and Jonathan Porter.
If you have any information regarding to potential illegal diversion of controlled substances, please contact Assistant United States Attorney J. Thomas Clarkson at (912) 652-4422 or DEA Group Supervisor George M. Taylor (912) 447-4430. For any questions, please contact the United States Attorney’s Office at (912) 652-4422.