Eastern Kentucky Doctor Sentenced to Prison for Unlawfully Distributing Controlled Substances

A Kentucky doctor and his former office manager were sentenced to 60 and 32 months respectively in prison Wednesday for their roles in unlawfully distributing controlled substances during a time when the defendants did not have a legitimate medical practice.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Robert M. Duncan Jr. of the Eastern District of Kentucky, Special Agent in Charge Derrick Jackson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Atlanta Field Office, Special Agent in Charge D. Christopher Evans of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Detroit Field Division, and Executive Director W. Bryan Hubbard of the Kentucky Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) made the announcement.

Scotty Akers, M.D., 48, a licensed physician, and Serissa Akers, 33, his wife and former office manager, both of Pikeville, Kentucky, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert E. Wier of the Eastern District of Kentucky.  Judge Wier also ordered Scotty Akers to forfeit $12,275.  Both defendants pleaded guilty on Aug. 7, 2020 to charges of unlawfully distributing controlled substances.

As part of their guilty pleas, the defendants admitted to using Facebook messenger and other messaging applications to sell prescriptions for opioids.  According to their plea agreements, Serissa Akers exchanged prescriptions written by Scotty Akers for cash in parking lots around Pikeville.  The defendants also admitted that Scotty Akers performed no physicial examinations that would justify these parking-lot prescriptions, and failed to engage in other measures that prevent the abuse and diversion of opioids.  The defendants continued operating their opioid-delivery scheme even after they came under investigation and up until the moment when Scotty Akers’s medical license was suspended. 

HHS-OIG, DEA and Kentucky MFCU investigated the case.  Trial Attorney Dermot Lynch and Assistant Chief Kate Payerle of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Smith of the Eastern District of Kentucky are prosecuting the case.

The Fraud Section leads the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force.  Since its inception in October 2018, the ARPO Strike Force, which operates in 10 districts, has charged more than 70 defendants who are collectively responsible for distributing more than 50 million pills.  Since its inception in March 2007, the Health Care Fraud Strike Force, which maintains 15 strike forces operating in 24 districts, has charged more than 4,200 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for approximately $19 billion. In addition, the Health and Human Services (HHS) Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-Office of Inspector General, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

Individuals who believe that they may be a victim in this case should visit the Fraud Section’s Victim Witness website for more information.

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.

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    The Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) extramural research spending totaled about $510 million in fiscal year 2019—nearly half of the $1.1 billion in total spending on VA research. Of the $510 million, federal sources, such as National Institutes of Health, funded $382 million (75 percent), and nonfederal sources, including private entities, academic institutions, state and local governments, and foundations, funded $128 million (25 percent). Spending at the 92 VA medical centers that conducted extramural research in fiscal year 2019 ranged from less than $2 million to more than $10 million (see figure). VA medical centers' nonprofit research and education corporations (NPC) and academic affiliate partners administered the grants that accounted for 91 percent of the spending. Figure: Extramural Research Spending by VA Medical Centers that Conducted Extramural Research in Fiscal Year 2019 VA has made efforts to promote and support VA medical centers' partnerships with academic affiliates—for example, by coordinating a mentoring program for local VA research officials—and considers effective affiliations as an enhancement to research. However, VA's Central Office officials have not provided examples of successful practices for strengthening research partnerships with academic affiliates. Having such practices would promote collaborative opportunities for VA medical centers with academic affiliates, particularly for medical centers that have poor communication with affiliates. Additionally, VA's Central Office has provided general guidance but not specific tools to VA medical centers for determining when an NPC or an academic affiliate should administer a project's extramural funds. Having specific decision-making tools could help medical centers make more informed decisions to provide optimal support for the research. VA research, which has contributed to many medical advances, may be funded by VA's appropriation or extramurally by other federal agencies and nonfederal sources. To access extramural funding, investigators at VA medical centers usually work with an NPC or academic affiliate partner to submit a grant proposal. Once a grant is awarded, medical centers' partners administer the grant by distributing funding, fulfilling reporting requirements, and performing other administrative activities. GAO was asked to review VA's extramural research. This report examines, among other objectives, (1) how much VA spent on extramural research in fiscal year 2019 and (2) the efforts VA has made to support medical centers' partnerships for extramural research. GAO analyzed VA policies, documents, and data. It also conducted site visits and interviewed officials from VA's Central Office and from a nongeneralizable sample of VA medical centers, NPCs, and academic affiliates, which GAO selected to represent variation in geographic location and funding. GAO recommends that VA (1) provide more information to VA medical centers on strengthening research relationships with academic affiliates and (2) develop decision tools to help VA medical centers determine whether NPCs or academic affiliates should administer extramural grants. VA agreed with GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact John Neumann at (202) 512-6888 or neumannj@gao.gov.
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  • United States Files Complaint Against Nutter Home Loans for Forging Certifications and Using Unqualified Underwriters to Approve Government-Insured Reverse Mortgages
    In Crime News
    The United States has filed a complaint under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989 and the False Claims Act against Nutter Home Loans, f/k/a James B. Nutter & Co. (Nutter), for forging certifications and using unqualified underwriters to approve Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insured Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECM), the Department of Justice announced today. 
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    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Afghan National Arrested for 2008 Abduction of American Journalist
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced the unsealing of a federal indictment charging Haji Najibullah, a/k/a “Najibullah Naim,” a/k/a “Abu Tayeb,” a/k/a “Atiqullah” with six counts related to the 2008 kidnapping of an American journalist and two Afghan nationals. Najibullah, 44, was arrested and transferred to the United States from Ukraine to face the charges in the indictment. Najibullah will be presented today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ona T. Wang. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla.
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  • Secretary Michael R. Pompeo and Bahraini Foreign Minister Al Zayani at the U.S.-Bahrain Strategic Dialogue
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Three Foreign Nationals Charged with Conspiring to Provide Material Support to ISIS
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department announced today that three Sri Lankan citizens have been charged with terrorism offenses, including conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization (ISIS).  The men were part of a group of ISIS supporters which called itself “ISIS in Sri Lanka.”  That group is responsible for the 2019 Easter attacks in the South Asian nation of Sri Lanka, which killed 268 people, including five U.S. citizens, and injured over 500 others, according to a federal criminal complaint unsealed today.
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  • How We ReImagined HHS
    In Human Health, Resources and Services
    On October 1, 2020, I [Read More…]