January 25, 2016
Contact: Erin Mulvey
Phone Number: (212) 337-2906
Former Doctor Sentenced For Illegally Prescribing Pain Medication
BUFFALO, N.Y. - Senior U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny sentenced Pravin Mehta, 78, of Amherst, NY, to 24 months in prison and a fine totaling $500,000, this in addition to $125,000 previously forfeited in this case. The sentence was based on Mehta’s conviction for conspiring to illegally dispense controlled substances from his medical office by issuing prescriptions other than for a legitimate medical purpose and not in the usual course of professional practice.
U.S. Drug Enforcement (DEA), New York Division Special Agent in Charge, James J. Hunt, and U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. announced the sentencing.
“The 2011 investigation into crimes conducted by Dr. Mehta, and others in his practice, spearheaded similar investigations into rogue doctors throughout the country,” Special Agent Hunt stated. “Doctors who illegally prescribe pain medication for non-medical purposes transform their medical offices into drug dealers’ stash houses. Today’s sentencing is a reminder of the consequences that face those rogue doctors who fuel the opioid epidemic we currently face by their illegal diversion of prescription medication.”
“In abusing his medical license, Mehta did more than harm to those who relied upon him for treatment and healing,” added U.S. Attorney Hochul. “His unprofessional and disgraceful conduct turned those patients into virtual zombies, and contributed to the massive opioid crisis our entire community continues to experience to this day. Let today’s sentence be a message that we will continue to prosecute drug dealers of every type, whether they wear overcoats or white coats, and peddle their commodities on street corners or in doctor’s offices.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney John E. Rogowski, who handled the case, stated that Mehta is a former physician who practiced medicine in the City of Niagara Falls. The defendant surrendered his medical license immediately after being first charged in this case in January 2011.
Mehta wrote prescriptions for narcotic pain medications, including fentanyl, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone, for individuals without conducting legitimate medical examinations. In 2010, federal investigators sent four individuals who were part of the investigation to see the defendant at his office on 10 different occasions. On all but the last visit, Mehta issued prescriptions for controlled substance pain medication at the request of the individuals without conducting a thorough medical exam.
In addition, on four separate occasions between December 2007 and January 2010, prior to leaving the country for multiple weeks, the defendant signed blank prescriptions and directed his office manager, who was not a trained medical provider, to complete the prescription by writing in a patient’s name, type, amount, and dosage of controlled substances whenever a patient came to the office in his absence seeking pain medication.
In fact, Mehta’s medical staff did not include any licensed medical professionals, such as other doctors, physician assistants, registered nurses, or licensed practical nurses. Mehta was arrested in January 2011 along with 13 others. All 14 individuals have now been convicted and sentenced.
The sentencing is the result of an investigation by Special Agents of the DEA’s Buffalo Resident Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt, the Niagara Falls Police Department, under the direction of Superintendent Bryan DalPorto, the Niagara County Sheriff's Drug Task Force under the direction of Sheriff James Voutour, the New York State Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, the New York State Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, New York Field Division under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Shantelle P. Kitchen.