Indian-American doctor in California sentenced to 2 years in prison

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An Indian-American doctor in South Bay, California, was sentenced Oct. 21, 2019, to 24 months in prison for health care fraud and for distributing hydrocodone outside the scope of his professional practice and without a legitimate medical need.

Venkat Aachi, 52, of Saratoga, who was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Edward J. Davila, pleaded guilty to the charges on March 25, 2019.  In addition to the prison term, Judge Davila ordered Aachi to serve 3 years of supervised release and ordered him to pay $82,616.85 in restitution.  Aachi will begin serving his sentence on January 22, 2020.

According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, Aachi was a licensed physician who operated a pain clinic in San Jose and maintained a DEA registration number authorizing him to prescribe controlled substances.

In his plea agreement, Aachi admitted that from September 18, 2017, through July 2, 2018, he wrote hydrocodone-acetaminophen prescriptions that were outside the scope of his professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose.

The plea agreement describes transactions Aachi made.  For example, in November of 2017, he wrote a prescription enabling a patient to receive 90 hydrocodone-acetaminophen pills, without conducting a physical examination of the patient nor discussing the patient’s pain or response to prior medication.

Aachi acknowledged that he knew the prescriptions were not for a legitimate medical purpose and that he did not write the prescriptions in the usual course of his professional practice.

Aachi also admitted that on July 2, 2018, he submitted to an insurance company a fraudulent claim for payment for healthcare benefits, items, and services.  Aachi admitted he acted with the intend to defraud the insurance company, the press release said.

In filings submitted by the government in connection with Aachi’s sentencing, the government wrote that over the course of just one year, Aachi wrote 5,992 prescriptions for controlled substances, the majority of which were for narcotics.  Further, from September 2017, to July 2018, four undercover law enforcement agents posed as new patients.  They visited Aachi about four times each, and after each visit, they received a prescription for a schedule II controlled substance with little to no physical examination.

A federal grand jury indicted Aachi on October 9, 2018, charging him with six counts of distributing drugs outside the scope of professional practice, and one count of health care fraud. Aachi pleaded guilty to one count under each statute.

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