ASAC James R. Burns Jr. at the podium. L-R (background): RAC Dale Kasprzyk, Gary Baldauf Regional Director Medicaid Fraud, U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr., Niagara County Sherriff James R. Votour, Niagara Falls Chief of Police John R. Chella.
RAC Dale Kasprzyk at the podium. L-R (background): U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr., Gary Baldauf Regional Director Medicaid Fraud, ASAC James R. Burns Jr., Niagara County Sherriff James R. Votour, Niagara Falls Chief of Police John R. Chella.
BUFFALO, NY. - United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Division John P. Gilbride and U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that fourteen individuals were charged in criminal complaints in connection with the use of fraudulently issued and forged prescriptions for controlled substances. Among those charged is Dr. Pravin V. Mehta, 73, of Amherst, New York, whose medical practice is located on Main Street in Niagara Falls, New York. Mehta is charged with illegal distribution of controlled substances. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or both.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John E. Rogowski, who is handling the case, stated that according to the complaint, Mehta issued prescriptions for controlled substances, primarily Opana and Oxycontin, to patients without a proper medical exam and outside the norms of professional medical treatment. The complaint cites ten occasions between March 2010 and September 2010, when Mehta is accused of engaging in this conduct. In one instance, Mehta prescribed a larger number of dosage units of a controlled substance to a "patient," an individual cooperating with the investigation, knowing that the "patient" intended to share the controlled substances with another individual who was not a Mehta patient.
Also executed at the time of Mehta's arrest was an immediate suspension order (ISO) upon Mehta's DEA registration. This order is effective immediately and prohibits Mehta from possessing, dispensing or prescribing any controlled substances. The order was issued due to Mehta's continued possession of a DEA registration being deemed as inconsistent with the public interest and an imminent danger to public health and safety.
“There are thousands of faces of prescription drug abuse. It could be a mother, a son, a cousin or a friend but the abuse of prescription drugs has dramatically risen to a point of concern not only in law enforcement but in our homes,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge John P. Gilbride. “Today, DEA and our state and local law enforcement partners have arrested Dr. Pravin Mehta who hid behind the sanctuary of his medical office in order for him and his coworkers to illegally distribute diverted pain medication in return for profit. Throughout this investigation it was learned that Dr. Mehta’s street name was ‘Doctor Feel Good’ and as such was the fifth highest prescriber of controlled substances in New York State. Today, ‘Doctor Feel Good’ should not be feeling ‘as’ good and will face the consequences of his illegal enterprise.”
“Our Office previously described the growing crisis in our community, and around the country, as a result of the abuse of prescription drugs,” said U.S. Attorney Hochul. “In order to protect their children, we told parents and grandparents to guard the medicine cabinets. We successfully identified and arrested street level traffickers of the substances. And we committed to following the trail of illegal prescription drug distribution to wherever it leads.”
“Today, we’re here to report that the investigation has taken us literally into a doctor’s office, where prescriptions for these dangerous, highly addictive substances were illegally issued, not just by a licensed medical doctor, but by members of his staff as well,” continued Hochul. “While I must stress that this is not an indictment of the medical profession – where the vast majority of doctors capably discharge their responsibilities and faithfully uphold their oaths – in this instance, all who took part in this operation will face the very stiff consequences of both breaking the law and abusing the public’s trust.”
"Cracking down on unscrupulous individuals deliberately trying to scam the system and profit off of hard-earned taxpayers' dollars must be a top priority for law enforcement in this state. I would like to thank our partners, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of New York along with the local office of the Drug Enforcement Administration for their continued cooperation in this effort," said Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. "Today’s announcement should send a clear message that we will leave no stone unturned in the fight against fraud, waste and abuse in New York State.”
The 13 other individuals named in complaints, including current and former employees of Mehta's medical practice, were charged with obtaining and attempting to obtain controlled substances at local pharmacies by presenting prescriptions they knew were fraudulently obtained or forged. The prescriptions were on forms emanating from Mehta's office.
Also charged: James Respress, 53, of Niagara Falls; Bari McHugh, 37, of Niagara Falls; Teri Long, 27, of Niagara Falls; Amy Gore, 37, of Niagara Falls; Chantel Stypick, 32, of Niagara Falls, a former Mehta employee; Ashley Fose, 27, of Niagara Falls; Darlene Printup, 29, of Lewiston; Dawn Figurelli, 48, of Niagara Falls a current Mehta employee; Shannon Figurelli, 25, of Niagara Falls, a former Mehta employee; Wilbert Henderson, 52, of Niagara Falls; Teresa Gansworth, 25, of Sanborn, a former Mehta employee; Chiaka Gabby, 20, of Niagara Falls; and Robert Bradley, 30, of Niagara Falls.
Respress, Dawn Figurelli, Shannon Figurelli, Bradley, Stypick, Fose, Gabby, McHugh and Henderson were also charged with health care fraud because they utilized Medicaid benefit cards to pay for the fraudulently obtained and forged prescriptions.