A doctor was sentenced to almost 27 years in prison on July 24, 2013, according to the Sun Sentinel. The former doctor, Sergio Rodriguez, had worked as a pediatrician at Children Plus Health Center near Palm Beach County, Florida. He was charged with operating a pill mill out of his office. He pleaded guilty to four counts of manslaughter, four counts of conspiracy to traffic oxycodone, one count of racketeering and one count of money laundering.
Doctor Prescribed Pain Pills to Undercover Detectives.
Dr. Rodriguez is accused of illegally prescribing pain killers out of his office. He was initially arrested in 2008. Investigators claim the doctor did not have the proper training to prescribe the pain medications, but did so anyway. According to the Sun Sentinel, the doctor would prescribe oxycodone, methadone and xanax to patients, including undercover detectives, without an examination.
A Palm Beach, Florida, judge approved a plea agreement for Dr. Rodriguez. Under the agreement, the doctor reportedly admitted responsibility for the deaths of four people in early 2008. According to court documents, Dr. Rodriguez relinquished his license to practice medicine in the state of Florida in 2009.
Civil Forfeiture of Property and Money: A New Weapon in the Government’s Arsenal Against Health Fraud and Pill Mills.
Dr. Rodriguez was also ordered to pay $200,000 in fines, and court costs. He will also be responsible for forfeiting $87,000, according to the Sun Sentinel.
Recently we have seen government prosecutors and agencies, including the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU), the U.S. Attorney General’s (AG) Office, and local sheriff and police departments use the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act against health professionals and health facilities in health-related cases. A prompt, aggressive defense to these actions may often recover the property or funds seized and, more importantly, a good defense can be used to help resolve any pending criminal charges. To read more on the forfeiture of property and money, click here to read a previous blog.
Legal Tips for Physicians to Manage Pain Patients.
Doctors, pharmacists and all healthcare professionals who are involved in schemes relating to overprescribing or trafficking in narcotics may be targeted by many different agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The DEA will often use undercover agents and informants to pose as patients, wired for audio recording. The DEA will often work with local law enforcement authorities and the Department of Health (DOH). Other investigations and arrests may be initiated by a statewide prosecutor’s office, which is under the AG. Still others have been initiated by the MFCU where Medicaid funds are used.
To avoid any legal actions altogether, we advise our physician clients to follow a simple list of suggestions in order to protect themselves from drug-seeking patients. Click here to see an article on our website with tips on how to help manage pain patients.
Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Health Professionals and Providers.
The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, pain management doctors, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health providers in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.
To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
What do you think of Dr. Rodriguez’s sentence? As a health care professional, how do you manage pain patients? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.
Freeman, Marc. “Former Doctor Sentenced to 27 Years for Overdose Deaths.” Sun Sentinel. (July 25, 2013). From: http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2013-07-25/news/fl-doctor-overdose-deaths-plea-deal-20130725_1_sergio-rodriguez-former-doctor-children-plus-health-center
Muczyner, Michael. “Lake Worth Pediatrician Sentenced to Prison for Pill Mill Charges.” CBS 12 News. (July 25, 2013). From: http://cbs12.com/news/top-stories/stories/vid_9076.shtml
Department of Health v. Sergio Rodriguez, M.D. Case Number 2008-20504. Final Order. January 7, 2011. From: http://ww2.doh.state.fl.us/DocServiceMngr/displayDocument.aspx
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
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