Five Pennsylvania Physicians Charged with Unlawfully Distributing Buprenorphine and Defrauding Medicare and Medicaid
WASHINGTON, DC – Five physicians of Redirections Treatment Advocates, LLC, an opioid addiction treatment practice with offices in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, have been indicted on charges of unlawfully dispensing controlled substances and health care fraud, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady of the Western District of Pennsylvania and United States Attorney William J. Powell of the Northern District of West Virginia announced today. These indictments represent the latest in a series of charges filed since Attorney General Sessions announced the formation of the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, a Department of Justice initiative that uses data to target and prosecute individuals that commit opioid-related health care fraud.
The defendants named in the indictments are:
- Dr. Krishan Kumar Aggarwal, 73, of Moon Township, Pennsylvania, a contractor at RTA in Weirton, West Virginia;
- Dr. Madhu Aggarwal, 68, of Moon Township, Pennsylvania, a contractor at RTA in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania;
- Dr. Parth Bharill, 69, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a contractor at RTA in Morgantown, West Virginia;
- Dr. Cherian John, 65, of Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, a contractor at RTA in Weirton, West Virginia; and
- Dr. Michael Bummer, 38, of Sewickley, Pennsylvania, a contractor at RTA in Washington, Pennsylvania.
According to the indictments, Redirections Treatment Advocates, LLC, operates Suboxone clinics in several locations in western Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia. The indictments allege that the defendants, working as contractors at various locations, created and distributed unlawful prescriptions for buprenorphine, known as Subutex and Suboxone, a drug that should be used to treat individuals with addiction. The defendants are also charged with conspiracy to unlawfully distribute buprenorphine. Finally, the defendants are charged with health care fraud for allegedly causing fraudulent claims to be submitted to Medicare or Medicaid for payments to cover the costs of the unlawfully prescribed buprenorphine.
“Today we are facing the worst drug crisis in American history, with one American dying of a drug overdose every nine minutes,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “It's incredible but true that some of our trusted medical professionals have chosen to violate their oaths and exploit this crisis for profit. Last summer, I sent a dozen of our top federal prosecutors to focus solely on the problem of opioid-related health care fraud in places where the epidemic was at its worst-including Western Pennsylvania. These cases cut off the supply of drugs and stop fraudsters from exploiting vulnerable people. Our prosecutors began issuing indictments back in October, and today we bring even more charges against those who allegedly defrauded the taxpayer while diverting potentially addictive drugs. I want to thank our dedicated AUSAs Robert Cessar and Sarah Wagner, FBI, DEA, our U.S. Attorneys’ offices, FDA, the HHS and Veterans Affairs Inspectors General, IRS, our Postal Inspectors, and all of our state and local partners for their hard work on these cases."
“Expanding the legitimate use of medication to treat addiction is a critical part of this Administration’s multi-faceted approach to combat the opioid epidemic ravaging our communities,” stated U.S. Attorney Brady. “Yet another vital component is the prosecution of unscrupulous practitioners who abuse their privilege to practice medicine and dispense prescriptions unlawfully. These indictments demonstrate that we remain vigilant in our pursuit of physicians who ignore their oath to do no harm.”
“We remain unwavering in our efforts to combat those who violate drug laws and thereby contribute to the crisis of addiction. I have made clear that a medical degree provides you no protection from prosecution. We will persevere,” added U.S. Attorney Powell.
“Alleged abuses of the health care system destroy the basic trust between providers and patients and between taxpayers and the government,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Bob Johnson. “I commend the work of our health care fraud task force and want this to be a message to the community and physicians that these investigations are a high priority for the FBI.”
“Buprenorphine is used to help people struggling with substance use disorder from heroin and other narcotic pain killers. The allegations in this indictment against these five doctors are deeply troubling, as these doctors distributed this drug not to assist those struggling with addiction, but solely for profit,” said Jonathan A. Wilson, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Philadelphia Field Division. “As part of our overall mission to address the opioid crisis, the DEA will continue to aggressively target the rogue practitioners that contribute to this epidemic.”
For each of the defendants, the law provide a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for each of the counts charging unlawfully dispensing Schedule III controlled substances; a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $1 million for each of the counts charging conspiracy to unlawfully dispense a Schedule III controlled substance; and a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000 for each of the counts charging health care fraud. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendants.
Assistant United States Attorney Robert S. Cessar of the Western District of Pennsylvania and Assistant United States Attorney Sarah E. Wagner of the Northern District of West Virginia are prosecuting these cases on behalf of the United States.
The investigation leading to these indictments was conducted by the Western Pennsylvania Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, which combines personnel and resources from the following agencies to combat the growing prescription opioid epidemic: Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Health and Human Services - Office of Inspector General, Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigations, Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General - Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, Unites States Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Attorney’s Office - Criminal Division, Civil Division and Asset Forfeiture Unit, Department of Veterans Affairs - Office of Inspector General, Food and Drug Administration - Office of Criminal Investigations and the Pennsylvania Bureau of Licensing.
An indictment is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.