Greenwood Village Psychiatrist Sentenced to Prison for Illegal Distribution of Controlled Substances and Financial Crimes
DENVER – Howard Weiss of Greenwood Village was sentenced to six months in federal prison for distributing a controlled substance outside the usual course of professional practice, for structuring financial transactions in a way to evade reporting requirements, and for engaging in monetary transactions greater than $10,000 that were derived from unlawful activity. After his custodial sentence, the defendant will face ten months of home confinement, as part of three years on supervised release. The 69-year-old also was ordered to forfeit $826,083.24 in criminal proceeds, pay $150,000 in community restitution, and surrender both his medical license as well his license to prescribe controlled substances.
According to the plea agreement, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS-CI) began an investigation into the defendant because of suspicious financial activity, reports related to his patients’ sale of controlled substances, and one patient’s poly-drug overdose death. The investigation revealed that the defendant was prescribing methamphetamine to several adult patients. Methamphetamine is a Schedule II stimulant with a high potential for abuse. The FDA has approved only one methamphetamine product for medical use in rare circumstances. When investigators looked in detail at Weiss' prescribing records they discovered other red flags, including poly-drug prescribing. It is unusual to prescribe high-dose stimulants with high-dose sedatives because of the drugs competing effects. Yet, the defendant routinely prescribed high-dose stimulants with high-dose sedatives. The defendant also regularly prescribed stimulants such as Adderall at the upper end of the usual dosing range and, sometimes, well beyond the upper end of the usual dosing range.
In July 2017, one of the defendant’s patients was arrested when the patient showed up to a drug deal with 119 methamphetamine pills prescribed by the defendant. The defendant’s prescriptions to that patient were outside the usual course and did not have a legitimate medical purpose. Further, the patient’s probation officer had previously contacted the defendant to warn about the patient’s methamphetamine addiction, but Weiss prescribed the methamphetamine anyway.
In addition, as described in the plea agreement, the defendant engaged in illegal banking activity. Federal regulations prohibit the “structuring” of financial transactions to thwart the requirement that banks file reports for currency deposits of more than $10,000. Between November 2015, and February 2018, the defendant made forty-five cash deposits in excess of $9,000 but below the $10,000 threshold, which would require the bank to file a Currency Transaction Report. Bank tellers reported occasions in which the defendant would show up with cash, ask for it to be counted, and then decline to deposit any amount more than $10,000.
“Howard Weiss knowingly and unlawfully distributed controlled substances outside the usual course of practice for no other purpose than greed,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge David S. Olesky. “Thanks to the dedicated team at the DEA Rocky Mountain Field Division, the IRS-CI Denver Office and our U.S. Attorney’s Office, Weiss ended up losing more than he gained and will never lawfully practice medicine again.”
“IRS-CI Special Agents are experts in uncovering the financial schemes criminals use to hide money gained through illegal activities,” said Andy Tsui, Special Agent in Charge, Denver Field Office. “Weiss’ desire for money, and his disregard for the welfare of his patients, led to an investigation into his financial activity and ultimately the severe financial penalties that were handed down today.”
“This defendant prioritized personal enrichment over the health and safety of his patients,” said U.S. Attorney Cole Finegan. “Thanks to the excellent investigation by our partners at DEA and IRS-CI, in addition to his prison sentence, the defendant will give up over $825,000 in criminal proceeds and will not be able to harm any more patients.”
United States District Court Judge Daniel D. Domenico presided over the sentencing on June 6, 2023.
Assistant United States Attorneys Bryan Fields and Jena Neuscheler are handling the prosecution. Assistant United States Attorney Elizabeth Young is handling the parallel forfeiture action.