SAN JOSE – On March 26, 2019, the United States Attorney’s Office announced that licensed physician Venkat Aachi, 52, of Saratoga, pleaded guilty to distributing hydrocodone outside the scope of his professional practice and without a legitimate medical need, and to health care fraud.
“This investigation involved numerous agencies, including California Department of Justice special agents in the Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “Investigating physicians who prescribe addictive painkillers for no legitimate medical purpose is paramount to attacking the misuse of prescription drugs in this country.”
According to the plea agreement, Aachi operated a pain clinic in San Jose and maintained a DEA registration number authorizing him to prescribe controlled substances. 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 in which Aachi improperly distributed hydrocodone. For example, in November of 2017, he wrote a prescription enabling a patient to receive 90 hydrocodone-acetaminophen pills. Aachi did not conduct a physical examination of the patient nor discuss 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.
Further, Aachi admitted that on July 2, 2018, he falsely submitted to an insurance company a false and fraudulent claim for payment for healthcare benefits, items, and services. Aachi admitted he acted with the intent to defraud the insurance company.
On October 9, 2018, a federal grand jury indicted Aachi and charged 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.
Aachi remains free on bail and is scheduled for sentencing on July 1, 2019. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $1,000,000 for the illegal distribution of hydrocodone count and 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the health care fraud count.
This prosecution is the result of investigations by the DEA, FBI, HHS-OIG, and the California Department of Justice Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse. The California Department of Justice regularly works with other law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute fraud perpetrated on the Medi Cal program against a wide variety of healthcare providers, including doctors and pharmaceutical companies.