In December 2011, Dr. Richard Albert, 64, of Paintsville, KY, pleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiring to distribute and dispense controlled substances. He also agreed to forfeit more than $500,000 as proceeds from his conspiracy.
Okay, there is the point—more than $500,000 forfeited—the real reason for going after physicians in the War Against Doctors.
The newspapers reported:
“In his plea, Albert admitted that from 2009 to 2011 he wrote numerous fraudulent prescriptions to individuals without a legitimate medical purpose. Court records indicate that Albert frequently wrote between 40 and 50 fraudulent prescriptions in a given day.”
Now I wonder what they mean by “fraudulent”, because I can’t believe that a physician would write that many prescriptions in a day that were not for a real person. And if they were for a real person, then they weren’t fraudulent.
“According to the plea agreement, Albert wrote prescriptions to people who visited his clinic, his private residence, and a closed chiropractor’s office in Johnson County. During these visits, Albert performed little to no examination before writing the prescriptions. Patients who returned to the clinic after their initial visits received prescriptions without visiting with Albert at all.”
Now my guess is that Dr. Albert is old school. Record keeping was poor if at all. He probably based his decision on knowing the patient personally and what they needed, and did not realize that the government would nitpick his documentation. I’ll bet he wasn’t even computerized in his office, and his notes were hand-written. Evidence of this assumption is the report that he communicated with the judge saying:
“The fact is that 50,000 oxycodone pills were prescribed without documentation. I failed. I deeply regret my actions. I lament this every day. I am so sorry I did this. I am miserable.”
I worked with a doctor like that when I started practice in 1995. His name was James Hylton in Pulaski, Va. He kept the worst notes, often with just the one line “refill meds”, wrote Lortabs, Percocets, and Xanax for everyone in multiple scripts to “stay under the radar”, and saw patients under 5 minutes but charged higher level visits. I reported him to Medicare for his fraudulent billing practices, but at the time they weren’t interested. This was before the wave of attacking doctors for money, because by leaving him alone, they lost a gold mine and he was unbelievably protected from prosecution. Not that I’m for anyone being prosecuted, but Jim was a real piece of work. He was so caught up in the politics of Pulaski County and the hospital, that I’ve been suspicious that my reporting on him and the fraudulent actions of HCA Columbia Hospital in Pulaski is one reason I was attacked.
Back to Dr. Albert. He was accused of signing his name to blank prescriptions and having an office assistant fill out the actual prescription. That kind of behavior is old-school as well. Although illegal, he should have first received a warning to stop doing that before criminal charges were placed. He might not have known doing that was illegal.
He also reportedly back dated information into his medical files to cover-up the scheme. Now as long as the new information is added as an addendum, that is not illegal.
Dr. Albert was sentenced to 75 months (over 6 years) in prison.
The owners of the pain clinic where he worked, Tammy Cantrell, 40, of Oil Springs, Ky., and Shelby Lackey, 50, of Williamsport, Ky., were also charged with conspiracy to distribute and unlawfully dispense Oxycodone and maintaining a drug involved premise (so the government could forfeit their property). They set a precedent, being the first pain clinic owners in the Eastern District of Kentucky to have federal convictions brought against them. They also pleaded guilty. They are both due for release from prison in 2021.