Former North Carolina Physician Pleads Guilty To Drug Distribution, Health Care Fraud, And Aggravated Identity Theft Charges
The Defendant Admitted to Prescribing Pain Medication to Female Patients in Exchange for Sex Acts
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – R. Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, announced today that Dr. Michael Alson Smith, 65, a former Mt. Holly, N.C. family practice physician, appeared in federal court today and pleaded guilty to drug distribution, health care fraud, and aggravated identity theft charges, in connection with the illegal distribution of controlled substances to female patients in exchange for sex acts.
According to filed plea documents and today’s plea hearing, Dr. Smith was a licensed solo practitioner, who owned and operated Mt. Holly Family Practice, Inc., located in Mount Holly. In addition to practicing family medicine, Dr. Smith had sought and received approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to operate an office-based opioid treatment program, and treated a large number of patients with pain management and substance abuse issues.
According to court documents, from at least January 2017 to October 2017, Dr. Smith began to solicit sexual encounters from female patients whom he treated for pain management and/or substance abuse. In exchange for the encounters, Dr. Smith prescribed to those patients Schedule II, III, and IV controlled substances, including Percocet and Clonazepam (also known as Klonopin), among others. Dr. Smith admitted in court today that, during the relevant time period, he engaged in sexual encounters with at least seven female patients. Charging documents alleged that Dr. Smith used coercion to induce female patients to engage in sexual acts, including threatening to stop treatment and to stop prescribing medication.
During the same time period, Dr. Smith submitted fraudulent claims to, and received payment from, North Carolina Medicaid and Medicare, for non-existent medical services for the office visits in which he performed and received sex acts from female patients. Also, as a result of his illegal prescriptions, Dr. Smith caused some of these patients to submit claims to Medicaid and Medicare when they filled the prescriptions at area pharmacies.
The Honorable Robert J. Conrad, Jr. presided over Dr. Smith’s guilty plea. Dr. Smith was released on bond following today’s hearing. A sentencing date has not been set.
In making today’s announcement U.S. Attorney Murray commended the work of the DEA, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Office of the Inspector General, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, the North Carolina Medicaid Investigation Division, and the Mt. Holly Police Department for their investigation of this case.
Assistant United States Attorneys Kelli Ferry and Jenny Sugar of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte are in charge of the prosecution.