The Ohio Attorney General’s Special Prosecution section charged an Ohio doctor with operating a pill mill. The indictment included over 100 predicate acts, including drug trafficking, RICO (engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity), and conspiracy charges arising from the operation of an Ohio pain management clinic. The prosecution alleged that the doctor was writing prescription pain pills (oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl) without a legitimate medical purpose and was allowing his staff to write prescriptions unsupervised. The indictment included over 100 patient interactions involving a significant number of patients. Prior to the indictment, the doctor’s practice was raided by the DEA, State Medical Board, State Pharmacy Board, and County Drug Task Force.
At the outset of the case we aggressively pursued discovery and found well qualified experts to testify that the physician’s deviations were merely procedural and not criminal. We retained a well-respected pain management expert and a former DEA supervisory special agent to analyze the patient charts and the investigation file for proof of compliance. With our knowledge of pain management and the prescription of opioids, we were well suited to begin defending the physician’s medical justification for the prescribing of narcotic pain pills. We reviewed every patient interaction with our experts and were able to obtain solid evidence that the physician had a medical justification for each and every prescription. We obtained a very detailed expert report from our pain management expert that proved conclusively there was a medical justification for the prescriptions alleged in the drug trafficking charges.
The State had two experts, one of which, we were able to get to sign an affidavit stating that he could not properly render a medical opinion from his prior report due to the report being based on insufficient information. The state retained a second expert and we uncovered impeachment material to show that he was completely unqualified to testify against an office based pain management physician because he had no office based pain management experience. In fact, he made misstatements about his credentials on his CV and in other publications. We discovered that he reported to his credentialing body and CMS that he was merely an expert in family practice.
Turing to the state’s evidence, we uncovered that one of the lead case agents falsely testified at an evidentiary hearing that there were no undercover visits to the pain management practice. We knew this was false because in our experience with pill mill cases, undercover patient visits are a standard part of the DEA playbook. In fact, we later uncovered that the DEA had attempted to infiltrate the facility and were treated in accordance with the State’s intractable pain guidelines. Additionally, we were able to determine that a lead case agent failed to disclose the inconsistent statements of the cooperating co-defendant and a witness in the case. Finally, through a rigorous interview of another cooperating witness for the State, we uncovered that crucial parts of her story were completely fabricated and that she was testifying pursuant to an immunity deal with the prosecution, a fact that the prosecution failed to disclose to us.
Sun Tzu said “In war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.” Having whittled away at the prosecution’s evidence, the prosecution was forced to offer a plea deal. The prosecution offered a plea to charges unrelated to health care or drug trafficking which would guarantee that our doctor received a probation sentence and would likely have his convictions expunged in a few years. We were able to negotiate that all other charges, including the drug trafficking charges, be dismissed with prejudice (meaning that they cannot be refiled).
The doctor returned to work the following week.