Houston Physician Pleads Guilty to and Sentenced for Operating an Illegal Pill Mill
Doctor also Sentenced to Prison for Conspiring to Defraud Medicare in Wheelchair Fraud Scheme in Separate Case
|U.S. Attorney’s Office December 17, 2009|
HOUSTON—Dr. Michael D. Kim, 69, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to prison today for engaging in a conspiracy to illegally distribute more than 1.7 million tablets of hydrocodone to drug users and addicts and was also sentenced to prison for conspiring to defraud Medicare of more than $1.7 million in a separate case, United States Attorney Tim Johnson and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced today.
At a hearing before United States District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal this morning, Kim pleaded guilty under a plea agreement with the government which imposed a five-year term of imprisonment for the drug conspiracy conviction and a 10-year term of imprisonment for Kim’s previous convictions for conspiring to and defrauding the Medicare program.
According to the factual basis supporting the guilty plea in the drug conspiracy included in the plea agreement executed this morning, Kim sold "drug cocktail" prescriptions to drug users and addicts for cash. These prescriptions were usually for hydrocodone, alprazolam and carisoprodol and were not for a medical purpose. Kim's "patients" began arriving in the clinic parking lot to see Kim as early as 6:00 a.m. even though Kim routinely arrived at 10:00 a.m. From January 2005 through July 2008, many of Kim's illegal prescriptions were filled by agreement with the pharmacist at Prime Pharmacy. Prime Pharmacy, which is no longer in business, was located next door to Kim's medical clinic at 477 West Parker Road in Houston and filled Kim’s prescriptions totaling 1,766,517 tablets of hydrocodone in a two-year period. Per the term of the agreement, Judge Rosenthal sentenced Kim to five years imprisonment to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release for this drug conviction.
Kim was also sentenced for his role in an extensive Medicare fraud conspiracy that was one of the "motorized wheelchair fraud schemes” that were prevalent in the Greater Houston area from 2002 to 2004. Kim was previously convicted of conspiracy to defraud the Medicare program and 17 counts of health care fraud in a scheme to defraud Medicare of $29 million by a jury’s verdicts following trial in September 2008.
The evidence presented at trial proved Kim fraudulently certified physically-fit Medicare beneficiaries for motorized wheelchairs. The evidence further proved Kim was also receiving kickbacks of $200 cash from the owners of several Durable Medical Equipment companies who solicited Medicare beneficiaries for Kim to evaluate. Recruiters were transporting Medicare beneficiaries to Kim from various parts of Texas and Louisiana. From April 2002 through October 2003, Kim fraudulently signed more than 500 certificates of medical necessity for motorized wheelchairs for Medicare beneficiaries residing in Louisiana. Kim routinely approved motorized wheelchairs for 20-60 patients a day who clearly did not meet the Medicare guidelines to receive such a device, fraudulently approving motorized wheelchairs for 3240 Medicare beneficiaries in a 16-month period. Medicare paid out more than $10.3 million based on Kim's fraudulent certificates of medical necessity.
Judge Rosenthal sentenced Kim to 10 years' imprisonment for the fraud convictions and further ordered Kim to pay Medicare $10.8 million in restitution and to forfeit $1.1 million to the United States.
The court ordered that the two sentences be served concurrently, meaning Kim will serve a total of 10 years for his crimes. Kim has been in federal custody without bond since July 2008.
The criminal charges were the result of a joint investigation conducted by agents of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Office of Inspector General, the FBI, and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Texas Attorney General's Office. Both cases were prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Al Balboni.