June 29, 2018
Contact: SA Elaine Cesare
Phone Number: (214) 366-6900
Three doctors, a pharmacist, and a business owner charged in opioid indictments
(OKLAHOMA CITY) - A federal grand jury has returned two indictments involving the illegal distribution of and fraudulent billing for prescription opioids by health care professionals, announced Special Agent in Charge Clyde E. Shelley, Jr. of the Drug Enforcement Administration and Robert J. Troester, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma.
United States v. Robison and Hallaba
On June 20, 2018, the grand jury charged doctors Melvin Lee Robison, 64, and Moheb Hallaba, 89, for conspiracy, distributing opioids illegally, and billing Medicare fraudulently. According to the indictment, in 2015 the Oklahoma State Board of Osteopathic Examiners began to investigate the prescription writing of Robison, who practiced in Sayre, Oklahoma.
The grand jury alleges that in September 2015, Dr. Robison hired Dr. Hallaba to write prescriptions at his clinic. From September 2015 to April 2017, both doctors are alleged to have signed hundreds of prescriptions per week without reviewing patient files or seeing the patients. In particular, they are charged with 54 counts of distributing controlled substances—including in particular Schedule II opioids such as oxycodone, OxyContin, and fentanyl—outside the usual course of professional medical practice and without legitimate medical purpose.
According to the indictment, their criminal distribution of these drugs resulted in five patient deaths.
Dr. Robison is also charged with 51 counts of fraudulent Medicare billing. These offenses involved billing for services when he is alleged to have been out of the country and for patient visits allegedly conducted by a nurse practitioner rather than by Robison himself.
If convicted of conspiracy or of distributing controlled substances illegally, each defendant could be imprisoned for up to twenty years. If convicted of any of the five distribution counts alleged to have resulted in deaths, however, each defendant would face a sentence of not less than twenty years and up to life. Any of these counts could result in a fine of up to $1,000,000 and a term of supervised release of at least three years. Each count of health care fraud against Robison would carry a sentence of up to ten years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and not more than three years of supervised release, in addition to restitution. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of the proceeds of the offenses.
This case is the result of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General; the FBI; and the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Assistant U.S. Attorneys David P. Petermann, Jacquelyn M. Hutzell, and Amanda Green are prosecuting the case.
The public is reminded these charges are merely accusations and that Robison and Hallaba are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Reference is made to court filings for further information.
United States v. Ferris, Dossey, and Isbell
Also on June 20, a federal grand jury returned a 103-count indictment against Dr. James Ferris, 44, Katherine Dossey, 49, and Sherry Isbell, 48. All three defendants are charged with drug distribution and Medicare fraud. According to the indictment, Isbell owned a company in Wellston, Oklahoma, called Physicians At Home, which employed Dr. Ferris and several physician assistants and nurse practitioners. It is alleged that Isbell owned and operated Mid-Oklahoma Medical Access Clinic (MOMAC), for which Ferris also worked. Dossey is alleged to have been a pharmacist who owned and operated Wellston Clinic Pharmacy.
The grand jury alleges that from September 1 to December 9, 2015, Dr. Ferris signed stacks of blank Physicians At Home and MOMAC prescription pads and gave them to Dossey, who completed them by filling in the date, patient information, drug type, and drug dosage. According to the indictment, Dossey completed and filled approximately 1,711 prescriptions for Schedule II controlled substances by using blank prescription pads that Dr. Ferris had signed.
All three defendants are charged with 62 counts of distributing Schedule II controlled substances—hydrocodone, fentanyl, and similar opioids—outside the usual course of professional medical practice. They are also charged with 41 counts of Medicare fraud for billing Medicare for invalid prescriptions.
If convicted of distributing controlled substances illegally, each defendant would face imprisonment up to twenty years and a fine of up to $1,000,000, plus not less than three years of supervised release. Each count of Medicare fraud could result in a sentence of up to ten years, a fine of up to $250,000, and up to three years of supervised release. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of the proceeds of the crimes, including real property Dossey is alleged to own in Wellston.
This case is the result of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General; the FBI; the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs; the Oklahoma Pharmacy Board; and the Oklahoma Medical Board. Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Green is prosecuting the case.
The public is reminded these charges are merely accusations and that Ferris, Dossey, and Isbell are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Reference is made to court filings for further information.
Both of these cases are part of the National Health Care Fraud Takedown, announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions Thursday morning in Washington. The largest health care fraud enforcement action in Department of Justice history, the takedown—focused particularly on opioid offenses—included criminal charges against 76 doctors and involved more than $2 billion in false billings.
A New Opioid Enforcement Team
These two cases are also part of a larger law enforcement effort to focus on the prosecution of opioid-related offenses in the Western District of Oklahoma. Today Acting U.S. Attorney Troester formally announced that state and federal agencies are combining forces to address the opioid crisis as the Western Oklahoma Opioid Enforcement Team. Making the announcement with Troester were:
- Mike Hunter, Oklahoma Attorney General
- John Scully, Director of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs
- Clyde E. Shelley, Jr., Special Agent in Charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration
- Dennis Passerman, Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the FBI
- Jason Meadows, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General
- Rick Adams, Incoming Director of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation
- Kevin Caramucci, Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the Internal Revenue Service—Criminal Investigations
Other members of the team include the District Attorney’s Office for Oklahoma County; the District Attorney’s Office for Cleveland, Garvin, and McClain Counties; the Defense Criminal Investigative Service; and the Office of Personnel Management, Office of Inspector General.
This enforcement team will take advantage of all legal tools—criminal, civil, and administrative—to protect citizens from the illegal distribution and use of opioids, whether through health care providers or street dealers. It will consider prosecution and other litigation in both federal and state court to maximize effectiveness.