Insurance Fraud NEWS
Former Montgomery doctor pleads not guilty to new charges, trial set for June
March 26, 2019, Montgomery, AL
A former Montgomery doctor pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to more than two dozen new charges of money laundering, health care fraud and improper drug prescribing.
Dr. Richard Stehl, who was originally charged in August 2018, now faces charges of money laundering, five counts of health care fraud and 11 counts of distribution of a controlled substance.
"These new charges come as no surprise to Dr. Stehl's defense team," said Andrew Skier, Stehl's attorney. "We have known for some time that additional charges were going to be presented to a grand jury. We continue to prepare for trial as scheduled and Dr. Stehl looks forward to his opportunity to put these charges to the test before a trial jury."
Stehl's case is expected to go to trial in mid June, Skier said.
Stehl was released from custody last year under a house arrest with electronic monitoring agreement. Stehl agreed to give up his medical license, passport and certification to prescribe controlled substances in exchange for house arrest.
The new indictment lists a number of patients Stehl allegedly prescribed controlled substances to under the guise of "vague" medical diagnoses. Stehl prescribed drugs such as hydrocodone and amphetamines typically used to treat ADHD-like disorders.
"By issuing the above-described prescriptions, Stehl would warrant that legitimate medical needs existed for the dispensing of the prescribed medications," the indictment states. "As Stehl then knew, no such medical need existed."
Stehl allegedly prescribed the medication in 30-day quantities, requiring patients to come back for a new prescription every month. Prosecutors contend that billing patient insurance for the allegedly unnecessary visits amounts to health care fraud.
The federal indictment also alleged Stehl established a shell company to launder profit from his medical practice. He later transferred the business to a relative's name, but the indictment alleged the transfer was a "sham" designed to further conceal Stehl's money laundering.
The case against Stehl began with the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners, according to 2018 court documents, when a family member of one of his patients grew concerned that the doctor was overprescribing controlled medication.
Prescription data obtained by DEA investigators ranked Stehl in the top 1 percent of Alabama physicians for prescribing controlled substances in 2018. In 2017, Stehl ranked 173 out of 12,865 providers.
The affidavit also cited a 2012 professional evaluation ordered by the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners found Stehl was at high risk of attracting "complicated and potentially drug-seeking" clientele due to "atrocious" risk management practices.
ABME ordered the professional fitness evaluation, conducted by a Kansas testing facility, after two women reported Stehl for "inappropriate sexual advances." One woman alleged Stehl propositioned her while she was a patient, leading to a three-month relationship.
The ABME issued a nondisciplinary Letter of Concern to Stehl in 2012.
Stehl was initially charged with two counts of distribution of a controlled substance in August 2018, which he pleaded not guilty to. Court documents filed at the time indicated federal investigators had seized more than $70,000 in cash, a Mercedes Benz and an investment account from Stehl.
Dr. Gilberto Sanchez, a former Montgomery physician at the center of a separate, large-scale federal pill mill investigation, told investigators he once rented Stehl office space. Johnnie Sanders, a Montgomery counselor who is awaiting trial for health care fraud and distribution offenses in the Sanchez case, told investigators Stehl prescribed her a cocktail of prescription medications without asking for medical history or conducting physical examinations.
Court documents indicate Sanchez and Sanders provided investigators with information on Stehl for a possibly lighter sentence, though a federal judge rejected a sentencing agreement Sanchez and prosecutors had hashed out. Sanchez was ultimately sentenced to more than 12 years in federal prison.
Source: Montgomery Advertiser