March 11, 2011
Contact: Erica C. Curry
Phone Number: (602) 664-5600
Medical Doctor Surrenders License, Pays $700,000 Restitution For Prescription Drug/Money Laundering Scam
Dr. Yeh operated a scheme that saw about 150 patients each day
PHOENIX, AZ. - Drug Enforcement (DEA) Acting Special Agent in Charge Doug Coleman and Attorney General Tom Horne today announced that Albert Yeh, a medical doctor who practiced in Golden Valley, Arizona has surrendered his medical license in both Arizona and Nevada and will pay nearly $700,000 in restitution for his orchestration of a prescription drug and money laundering scheme.
"DEA will stand firm on its commitment to investigate and prosecute any medical practitioner who violates the laws of the United States when prescribing controlled substances other than for legitimate medical needs," said Coleman. "Today's sentencing sends a strong message that we will not tolerate rogue doctors who use their positions of trust to prey on those who are vulnerable to the abuse of prescription drugs."
On January 13, 2011, Albert Yeh pled guilty to three high-level felonies: fraudulent schemes and artifices, a class 2 felony; illegal control of an enterprise, a class 3 felony; and money laundering, a class 3 felony. The plea requires Yeh, a medical doctor, to permanently surrender his Arizona medical license. Also, as a result of this prosecution, Yeh has permanently surrendered his Nevada medical license. Yeh does not hold any other medical licenses in the United States. On March 11, 2011, Yeh was sentenced by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Susan Brnovich to 2.5 years in prison, followed by 5 years probation. Yeh is also required to pay $683,038.00 in restitution to the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment (AHCCCS). In a related forfeiture matter, Yeh agreed to forfeit property seized in the amount of approximately $2 million in seized monies.
From January 1, 2006 to February 10, 2009, Yeh operated a pain management clinic one day a week in Golden Valley, Arizona, where he systematically victimized the State of Arizona through massive amounts of fraudulent billing. Yeh operated this medical practice for the admitted purpose of making as much money as possible. To do this, Yeh concocted a scheme to severely shorten patient visits, increase his patient load to dangerous levels, and then grossly inflate his bills. Yeh employed an unlicensed physician assistant whom he instructed to see about half of the patient load, allowing Yeh’s practice to see twice as many patients.
During most of those patient visits, prescriptions for narcotic drugs already signed by Yeh were provided to patients. Also, to shorten the length of patient visits, Yeh and his staff typically failed to take vital signs or perform medical exams, instead relying on computer commands created by Yeh that automatically entered false information on patients’ charts. This means that Yeh and his staff did not know whether patients were having adverse reactions to medications or experiencing other medical problems that should be factored into determining treatments. Then, Yeh submitted bills to AHCCCS, claiming that he had conducted all the patient visits, even those conducted by the unlicensed physician assistant. Also, Yeh inflated the charges on his bills by claiming he provided a higher level of medical service than what actually occurred, resulting in a higher than allowed payment from AHCCCS.
“Albert Yeh can no longer practice medicine and victimize Arizonans,” Horne said. “For three years, Yeh systematically victimized not only his patients, but the taxpayers of Arizona by writing massive amounts of prescriptions for narcotics without properly ensuring the patients actually needed those drugs; seeing far too many patients than is safe, and grossly and fraudulently inflating his bills for the admitted purpose of his making as much money as possible. This medical predator is now, fortunately, out of business.”
Yeh’s records indicate that, with this scheme in place, his practice saw about 150 patients each day. To make sure these patients returned to Yeh’s practice so that he could continue to maximize his unlawful billing, Yeh did not take steps typically taken by pain management doctors to determine whether patients were taking too many drugs or drugs other than those he was prescribing. In fact, Yeh’s staff referred to follow-up visits as “refill” visits, as the focus clearly was on handing out the pre-signed prescriptions and moving on to the next patient.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement (DEA), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, the DEA’s Tactical Diversion Task Force, which includes the Arizona Department of Public Safety, Phoenix Police Department, Apache Junction PD, Peoria PD, Surprise PD, Mesa PD, Kingman PD, Mohave Area General Narcotics Enforcement (MAGNET), Arizona Health Care Cost Containment (AHCCCS) Fraud Unit, Nevada DPS, Arizona Pharmacy Board, the DEA Las Vegas and the DEA Digital Evidence Laboratory.