HOPE Clinic Physician Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering Charge
BECKLEY, W.Va. – A Beckley area physician, Dr. John Pellegrini, D.O., 64, of Huntington, West Virginia, pled guilty today to a conspiracy to commit money laundering related to the promotion of the illegal distribution of Schedule II controlled substances, outside the usual course of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose, announced United States Attorney Mike Stuart.
Stuart commended the investigation conducted by agents with the:
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, OIG
- Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations
- Food and Drug Administration – Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI)
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- West Virginia State Police
- Metropolitan Drug Enforcement Network Team (MDENT)
- Beckley Police Department
- Kentucky State Police
- Harrison County (KY) Sheriff’s Department
- Appalachia HIDTA
- Drug Enforcement Administration
“Physicians and pharmacies that exploit addiction, the weak and the vulnerable for personal greed must be held accountable,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart. “Every physician takes the Hippocratic Oath promising, “First, do no harm.” Tragically, physicians like Pellegrini either forgot or chose to ignore that oath in favor of greed, profits, and easy cash. The opiate crisis has claimed too many of our good citizens because of doctors like Pellegrini. We will all meet our maker someday and no one, including Pellegrini, can escape the ultimate judgment. It is a tragedy on many, many levels.”
Pellegrini admitted that he worked at the Beckley location of the HOPE Clinic from November 2010 through October 31, 2012, which was owned by another physician and managed by a company called PPPFD, Inc.. He also admitted that many of the prescriptions that he wrote for HOPE Clinic customers were illegal, as they were written outside the usual course of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose. He further admitted that he understood from his interactions and conversations with other unnamed co-conspirators that the main purpose of the HOPE Clinic was to provide opioid prescriptions on a monthly basis to customers visiting HOPE Clinic. Pellegrini admitted that his interactions and examinations of customers were brief, cursory, or non-existent and generally resulted in a monthly prescription for opioids, which were typically oxycodone and oxycodone-based narcotics such as Roxicodone, powerful pain medications. Pellegrini admitted that he wrote these prescriptions at times even after customers’ screened positive for controlled substances other than what the customer was prescribed. Pellegrini further admitted that, as he and his co-conspirators knew, he did not create any meaningful treatment plans for his customers at HOPE Clinic and that he did not have any specialized training in pain management. Pellegrini further admitted that the clinic manager instructed and encouraged him to write opioid prescriptions and he complied.
Pellegrini also admitted that HOPE Clinic charged customers at least $160 per monthly visit, even when the customer did not see a doctor. He further admitted that he knew that some of the funds deposited into the bank account of HOPE Clinic were the criminally derived proceeds of distributing controlled substance without a medical legitimate purpose, as he knew that HOPE Clinic and PPPFD received funds from customers in exchange for the illegal prescriptions he wrote. Pellegrini further admitted that he received bonuses from HOPE Clinic, through the staffing service that employed him, based on the number of paying customers visiting the clinic, and those bonuses encouraged and promoted him to write even more illegal prescriptions for highly-addictive controlled substances because as the number of customers went up, the amount of his bonus went up.
Pellegrini admitted that during his work at the HOPE Clinic, he wrote at least 98 prescriptions for controlled substances outside the usual course of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose.
Pellegrini faces up to 20 years when he is sentenced on August 8, 2018.
This case was brought as part of an ongoing effort led by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia to combat the illicit sale and misuse of prescription drugs and heroin. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, joined by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, is committed to aggressively pursuing and shutting down illegal pill trafficking, eliminating open air drug markets, and curtailing the spread of opiate painkillers and heroin in communities across the Southern District.