A Livonia doctor was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison Wednesday for running an $18 million opioid scheme that involved fake patients paying him for prescriptions for highly-addictive drugs that wound up on the black market.
In admitting his guilt, the doctor said he was paid between $150 to $400 for writing the prescriptions, which had no medical purpose, but instead were sold on the street. He pulled this off with the help of seven Detroiters, all of whom were indicted alongside the doctor; six have pleaded guilty.
The lead defendant is Dr. Zongli Chang, 53, of Novi, who was sentenced to 135 months in prison, ordered to pay a $1 million fine and forfeit $3 million of his ill-gotten gains. He previously pleaded guilty to his crimes, admitting he and seven others ran a large-scale opioid scheme for five years, from 2012-2017.
According to Chang’s plea agreement, the drug operation relied on recruiters bringing fake patients to his office, where he would write prescriptions in exchange for cash for all kinds of drugs, including Hydrocodone-Acetaminophen, Oxycodone HCl, Alprazolam, Carisoprodol and codeine syrup. After he wrote the prescriptions, he said, recruiters would transport the patients to pharmacies to have the prescriptions filled and then took the pills to sell them on the street.
According to the U.S. Attorneys office, the drugs involved in this operation had a conservative street value of more than $18 million.
“This sentence sends a strong message to every other physician that deliberately writes unnecessary opioid prescriptions, knowing full well that the drugs will ultimately be sold on the streets, that they will be treated no differently than any other major drug dealer,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said in announcing the sentence.
Added Detroit FBI chief Timothy Slater: “We entrust physicians to care for their patients in a manner that is consistent with their oath to do no harm … Prescribing opioids with the knowledge that the drugs would ultimately be distributed illegally contributes to the ongoing opioid addiction crisis and cannot be tolerated.”
The charges against Dr. Chang and seven cohorts were unsealed more than a year ago. Since then, six of the seven patient recruiters have also pleaded guilty to engaging in the conspiracy. Chang’s co-defendants are:
Darryl Parker, 56, of Detroit
Tye Chandler, 26, of Detroit
Karen Hall, 57, of Detroit
Deangelo Givhan, 28, of Detroit
Yolanda Cannon, 39, of Detroit
Melvin McGuire, 48, of Detroit
Khary Tremble, 44, of Detroit
The prescription drug operation was busted by the Opioid Fraud Abuse and Detection Unit, a Department of Justice initiative that seeks to hold responsible individuals who are contributing to the nation’s opioid crisis.
Source:Detroit Free Press