SAN JOSE – On October 21, 2019, South Bay doctor Venkat Aachi was sentenced to two years in prison for health care fraud and for distributing hydrocodone outside the scope of his professional practice and without a legitimate medical need.
Aachi, 52, of Saratoga, pleaded guilty to the charges on March 25, 2019. According to the plea agreement, 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. 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 California Department of Justice worked with federal law enforcement departments on this investigation and stopped some of the unnecessary flow of prescription drugs that are making their way into our communities,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona.
The plea agreement describes transactions in which Aachi improperly distributed hydrocodone. 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. Aachi also 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.
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, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C), and one count of health care fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1347. Aachi pleaded guilty to one count under each statute.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Davila ordered Aachi to serve three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay $82,616.85 in restitution. Judge Davila ordered Aachi to begin serving his sentence on January 22, 2020.
This prosecution is the result of investigations by the DEA, FBI, HHS-OIG, and the BMFEA. Through the BMFEA, 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.