Fayetteville Doctor Sentenced To 20 Years In Federal Prison For Mail Fraud And Involuntary Manslaughter
Fayetteville, Arkansas – David Clay Fowlkes, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas and Michael Missal, Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs, announced that Robert Morris Levy age 54, of Fayetteville, Arkansas was sentenced today to 240 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $497,745.70 in restitution for one count each of Mail Fraud and Involuntary Manslaughter. The Honorable Timothy L. Brooks presided over the sentencing in the U.S. District Court in Fayetteville.
According to the plea agreement, Levy held a medical license issued by the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure issued in 1997. In 2005, the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks (“Fayetteville VA”) hired Levy to serve as the Chief of Pathology and Laboratory Medical Services, a position he held until his termination in 2018.
In 2015, Levy was interviewed by an administrative fact-finding panel regarding reports that Levy was under the influence of alcohol while on duty. Levy denied the allegations. In 2016, Levy appeared to be intoxicated while on duty, and a subsequent drug and alcohol test revealed Levy’s blood alcohol content was .396.0 mg/dL. As a result, the Fayetteville VA summarily suspended Levy’s privileges to practice medicine and issued Levy a written notice of removal and revocation of clinical privileges. Levy acknowledged that the pending proposed removal and revocation of clinical privileges was “due to unprofessional conduct related to high blood alcohol content while on duty” and in July 2016, Levy voluntarily entered a three-month in-patient treatment program, which he completed in October 2016.
Toward the end of the treatment program, Levy executed a contract with the Mississippi Physician Health Program and the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure in anticipation of returning to practice medicine at the Fayetteville VA. In the contract, Levy agreed to maintain sobriety to ensure his ability to practice medicine with reasonable skill and safety to patients. Levy agreed to “abstain completely from the use of . . . alcohol and other mood-altering substances” and to submit to random urine and/or blood drug screens. Non-compliance would potentially subject Levy to loss of his medical license and, in turn, his employment by the Fayetteville VA. Levy returned to work at the Fayetteville VA in October 2016.
As part of the contract, Levy randomly provided urine specimens and blood samples for drug testing from November 2016 through June 2018. Each blood sample and urine specimen tested was reported negative for the presence of drugs and alcohol. On twelve occasions beginning in June 2017 and continuing through 2018, while Levy was contractually obligated to submit to random drug and alcohol screens, Levy purchased for personal consumption 2-methyl-2-butanol (2M-2B), a chemical substance that enables a person to achieve a state of intoxication but is not detectable in routine drug and alcohol testing methodology. On July 2, 2017, in furtherance of the scheme to defraud, Levy caused a package containing 2M2B to be shipped in interstate commerce from a chemical supply company in Virginia to Levy’s residence in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The package containing 2M2B was sent from Virginia and delivered to Levy’s home in the Western District of Arkansas by United Parcel Service, a commercial interstate carrier.
On February 4, 2014, Levy conducted a cursory and rudimentary workup of a biopsy of a tumor in the lymph node of an Air Force veteran and rendered a diagnosis of diffuse large B cell lymphoma. The Government’s evidence would show this diagnosis was incorrect and that Levy’s workup prior to finalizing the incorrect diagnosis was cursory and rudimentary. The Government’s evidence also showed that Levy made a patently false entry in the veteran’s medical record by stating that another pathologist agreed with Levy’s diagnosis, when in truth and fact, Levy well knew when he made the false entry in the veteran’s medical record that no other pathologist agreed with Levy’s diagnosis. The evidence also revealed that prior to Levy entering the false diagnosis, another pathologist had written to Levy, urging Levy to perform more diagnostic tests in the case due to the concern that Levy’s diagnosis of large B cell lymphoma was wrong. The veteran died at the VHSO on July 26, 2014, of small cell carcinoma for which the veteran received no treatment to prolong his life. The veteran was not treated for small cell carcinoma due to Levy’s grossly and criminally negligent conduct that demonstrated a wanton and reckless disregard for the veteran’s life.
“There is no more important work for our office than seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our communities in Western Arkansas,” said Acting US Attorney David Clay Fowlkes. “The victims of this case are people who gave selflessly to ensure the safety and security of the United States. They deserve the best medical care that we can provide for them. They deserve to have doctors in charge of their treatment who are dedicated and vigilant, just as these victims were in their service to our Country. Instead, this defendant’s criminal conduct in this case caused irreparable harm to the victims and their families. We are very proud to work with the dedicated VA OIG agents to achieve this conviction and sentence. While we can never repair what this defendant has broken, it is our hope that this sentence will serve as an important step towards comforting the victim’s families and striving to ensure that this criminal conduct will not occur again.”
“This sentence should send a strong message that those who abuse their positions of trust in caring for veterans will be held accountable. I thank the VA OIG special agents who worked tirelessly on this case and the US Attorney’s Office for its outstanding efforts,” said VA Inspector General Michael J. Missal. “Our thoughts are with all those harmed by Dr. Levy’s actions and we hope they find some small measure of comfort from what happened here today.”
A federal grand jury indicted Levy in August 2019, and he entered a guilty plea in June 2020.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General conducted the investigation. Criminal Chief Kyra Jenner and Assistant United States Attorney Bryan Achorn prosecuted the case for the United States.