PIKEVILLE — Five people, including two doctors, a dentist and a former Pikeville doctor and his live-in girlfriend, have been charged locally as part of an action announced by the U.S. Department of Justice Wednesday as an attempt to deal with the national opioid epidemic.
In a statement issued Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr announced that a total of 60 people have been charged in connection with crimes that involved more than 350,000 prescriptions and 32 million pills in Kentucky, Ohio, Tennnessee, Alabama and West Virginia.
The three doctors who were charged as a part of the operation, records show, face a variety of charges.
Scotty Akers, 37, of Fields Way, Pikeville, and his live-in girlfriend and former office manager, Serissa Collier, also known as Serissa Stamper, 32, were lodged in the Pike County Detention Center Wednesday on charges of conspiracy to unlawfully distribute controlled substances and six counts of unlawful distribution of controlled substances.
According to a statement from the office of U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky Robert Duncan, among the allegations against the couple are that Akers signed opioid prescriptions for individuals who communicated with Stamper over Facebook Messenger. Stamper, the statement said, then allegedly delivered the signed prescriptions to prearranged retail parking lots in exchange for cash.
Records with the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure show that Akers’ medical license, which was already under restriction by KBML, expired in February. Akers formerly owned the Pikeville Sports, Spine and Pain Center, but, according to KBML records, his violations of accepted prescribing practices occurred while he was practicing at Paul B. Hall Medical Center in Paintsville and was found by KBML to have engaged in conduct which violated the state’s prescribing laws.
Akers has also served in the past as a volunteer Pike County Sheriff’s Deputy. However, Pike County Sheriff Rodney Scott said Akers has not been with the department for the past three years.
According to the indictment, the charges against Akers and Collier each carry a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, and a potential $1 million fine, if found guilty.
Also arrested and lodged in the Pike County Detention Center Wednesday was family practice physician Mohammed Mazumder, 44, of Lexington, whose Appalachian Primary Care is located in Prestonsburg.
Mazumder was indicted on charges including conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud (four counts), conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and distribution of a controlled substance.
According to Duncan’s office, among the alleged crimes committed by Mazmuder are that he allegedly unlawfully distributed controlled substances to patients of Appalachian Primary Care and another clinic by pre-signing prescriptions for controlled substances or directing clinic employees, who were unlicensed and not practitioners, to meet with patients while he was away and call-in controlled substance prescriptions in his name.
The four counts of health care fraud each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a potential $1 million fine while the rest of the charges carry lesser penalties.
Dr. Denver Tackett, 64, of Ky. 122, McDowell, was arrested and lodged in the Pike County Detention Center on charges of health care fraud and 15 counts of unlawful distribution of controlled substances.
Duncan’s office said Tackett is alleged to have written prescriptions for opioids which had no legitimate medical purpose and were outside the usual course of professional practice; removed teeth unnecessarily; scheduled unnecessary follow-up appointments; and billed inappropriately for other services.
The charges of distribution of controlled substances each carry a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a maximum $1 million fine.
Dr. Sai Gutti, 60, whose Neurology Clinic Pain Management businesses, including those in Pikeville and South Williamson, were the focus of attention last month as federal and state investigators descended on them to investigate, is the target of an indictment unsealed Wednesday charging him with eight counts of federal health care fraud.
According to Duncan’s office, the indictment alleges that Gutti devised a scheme to repeatedly bill Medicare, Medicaid and other health insurers for medically unnecessary urine drug testing.
The charges against Gutti each carry a potential prison sentence of 10 years and a maximum $250,000 fine.
Gutti was not arrested Wednesday, but was ordered to appear in U.S. District Court in Lexington later this month for an initial appearance in his case.
In the statement from the U.S. Department of Justice, Attorney General Barr referred to the takedown operation as potentially life-saving.
“The opioid epidemic is the deadliest drug crisis in American history, and Appalachia has suffered the consequences more than perhaps any other region,” Barr said. “But the Department of Justice is doing its part to help end this crisis. One of the Department’s most promising new initiatives is the Criminal Division’s Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force, which began its work in December. Just four months later, this team of federal agents and 14 prosecutors has charged 60 defendants for alleged crimes related to millions of prescription opioids. I am grateful to the Criminal Division, their U.S. Attorney partners, and to the members of the strike force for this outstanding work that holds the promise of saving many lives in Appalachian communities.”
Editor’s note: An indictment is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.