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DOJ Enjoins Doctors From Illegally Prescribing Highly Addictive Opioids and Other Controlled Substances



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Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, May 10, 2019

Justice Department Files Action to Enjoin Texas Doctors From Illegally Prescribing Highly Addictive Opioids and Other Controlled Substances

Temporary Restraining Order Issued Against Doctors Prescribing Opioids with No Legitimate Medical Purpose

The Department of Justice’s Civil Division and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas announced an action today to stop two Texas doctors from unlawfully prescribing powerful opioids linked to abuse and diversion. To protect the public, the United States sought and the court granted immediate relief through a temporary restraining order.

In a civil complaint unsealed today in the Northern District of Texas, the United States alleges that Cesar B. Pena Rodriguez M.D., and Leovares A. Mendez M.D., were prescribing in violation of the Controlled Substances Act. According to the complaint, the defendants issued thousands of prescriptions without apparent regard for patient harm, including prescriptions for a combination of an opioid, a short-acting benzodiazepine, and a muscle relaxer – a dangerous and frequently-abused drug cocktail known as the “trinity.” The United States Attorney’s Office worked with the Consumer Protection Branch of the Justice Department’s Civil Division in this effort.

“With opioid addiction ravaging communities across the nation, we are going to fight against doctors who are handing out prescriptions like candy,” said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Erin Nealy Cox. “We are determined to stem the tide of the crisis and we will use all the legal authorities at our disposal -- both criminal and civil.” 



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“The prescribing patterns of the doctors in this case are extremely disturbing and present a significant threat to the community,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt for the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “The Department of Justice will use every available tool to stop doctors who fail to uphold their legal obligation to prescribe controlled substances properly.”

The complaint alleges that Dr. Pena Rodriguez and Dr. Mendez issued numerous prescriptions without a legitimate medical purpose and outside the usual course of professional practice. Specifically, the complaint alleges that in the course of an investigation of the defendants by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the defendants repeatedly issued prescriptions for controlled substances, including hydrocodone, alprazolam, and tramadol, to undercover agents posing as prospective new patients in exchange for $250 cash payments. The complaint alleges that the defendants issued prescriptions despite performing only minimal or perfunctory medical evaluations, at best, during the visits. According to the complaint, the defendants sold medically unjustified prescriptions to undercover agents in all but one of 25 undercover visits.



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“The DEA has teams of investigators specialized in finding negligence when writing perilous prescription, which can cause a harmful addiction or potential overdose,” said Special Agent in Charge Clyde E. Shelley Jr. of the DEA Dallas Field Division. “The DEA will investigate the doctors who conduct this kind of practice and continue to combat the opioid crisis.”

According to court documents that the United States filed with its complaint, the defendants’ troubling prescribing practices were widespread and raised multiple warning signs or “red flags” of abuse and diversion, such as patient overdoses and prescriptions issued to groups of related individuals as well as to individuals who traveled unusual distances to receive their controlled substances. 

The action represents an innovative use of the Department’s civil enforcement authorities – a tactic amplified by the Attorney General’s Prescription Interdiction & Litigation (PIL) Task Force, which was formed in early 2018 to promote deployment of all available criminal, civil, and regulatory tools to reverse the tide of opioid overdoses in the United States.



    
   
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Judge Karen Scholer of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued the temporary restraining order.  Along with injunctive relief, the United States seeks civil monetary penalties.

The United States is represented by Northern District of Texas Opioid Coordinator Lindsey Beran and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Delaney and Trial Attorneys Arturo DeCastro and Anwar Graves of the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch.  This investigation is being conducted by the DEA.

A complaint is merely an allegation and there has been no determination of liability.

Additional information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts may be found atwww.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch.  For more information about the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas, visit its website at https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndtx.






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Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, May 10, 2019

Federal Court Permanently Enjoins South Florida Tax Return Preparers

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida entered a permanent injunction against Katiusca “Kathy” Rigaud (aka Kathy Leger), Andy Jean, and Bar Professional Services LLC (Tax Kings & Queens), barring them from preparing federal income tax returns for others, the Justice Department announced today.

The complaint alleges that Kathy Rigaud, Andy Jean, and Tax Kings & Queens — along with another defendant who was not subject to today’s order — prepared nearly 3,000 tax returns between 2013 and 2018, with the vast majority claiming a refund. According to the complaint, the defendants did not consistently identify themselves as the preparer on returns they prepared, as required by law. The complaint further alleges that the defendants’ practices included submitting false Schedules C (Profit or Loss from Business) for fictitious businesses to secure bogus earned income tax credits for their customers; and claiming false employee business expense deductions on Schedules A. 



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Rigaud, Jean, and Tax King & Queens consented to the permanent ban. The fourth defendant, Janet Morales, has not responded to the complaint.

Return preparer fraud is one of the IRS’ Dirty Dozen Tax Scams and taxpayers seeking a return preparer should remain vigilant. The IRS has information on its website about selecting a return preparer and has launched a free directory of federal tax preparers.

In the past decade, the Tax Division has obtained injunctions against hundreds of unscrupulous tax preparers. Information about these cases is available on the Justice Department’s website. An alphabetical listing of persons enjoined from preparing returns and promoting tax schemes can be found on this page. If you believe that one of the enjoined persons or businesses may be violating an injunction, please contact the Tax Division with details.





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Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 9, 2019

Austin Man Pleads Guilty to Fraudulent Scheme to Solicit Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars in Contributions to Scam-Pacs

An Austin, Texas, entrepreneur pleaded guilty today for fraudulently soliciting hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions through several scam-PACs that he founded and advertised as supporting candidates for the Office of the President of the United States during the 2016 election cycle. 

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs of the FBI’s San Antonio Division made the announcement.       

Kyle Gerald Prall, 40, of Austin, Texas, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew W. Austin of the Western District of Texas.  A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.





“Prall exploited the honest political engagement of countless citizens by representing that his organizations were supporting presidential candidates when in fact he was just stealing contributions,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski.  “In addition to cheating people out of their money, fraud committed in connection with our elections corrodes public confidence in our democratic institutions.  The Department of Justice is committed to investigating and prosecuting these crimes.”

“Making donations to a political cause, campaign or candidate is an important expression of free speech and a right all Americans should enjoy,” said Special Agent in Charge Combs.  “By misappropriating the donations for his own personal use, the defendant not only violated the trust of his victims, he also deprived them of their fundamental right to free speech.  The FBI is committed to protecting this right, and holding individuals, like the defendant accountable. Before making donations citizens should be mindful of this unscrupulous fraud scheme and exercise due diligence in researching the legitimacy of an organization.”   



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According to admissions made in connection with his plea, in 2015 and 2016, Prall created several political committees—including Feel Bern, HC4President and Trump Victory—which he advertised online to solicit contributions purportedly in support of presidential candidates in the 2016 election.  Prall advertised that the contributions would be used to support the candidates in various ways, including paying for transportation for voters to the polls; paying for training for volunteers to make phone calls and canvass neighborhoods to support the respective candidates; paying to help voters obtain appropriate identification documents and making contributions directly to one of the candidates and to other organizations supporting his campaign.  In reality, Prall did not intend to, and did not, use the contributions for these purposes and instead transferred much of the money to himself through sham LLC accounts and used the other funds to generate additional contributions to his fraudulent political committees.  Specifically, Prall admitted that of the $548,428 in contributions, he transferred $205,496 to himself through sham LLCs that he created for the purpose of moving the money, while contributing less than $5,100 to political causes.  Additionally, Prall used the political committees’ debit cards to pay for his personal travel and entertainment expenses, such as travel to Jacksonville, Florida and Belize; hotel stays in Miami Beach, Florida, and Austin, Texas; and to pay for food, hookah, alcohol and bottle service, “club dances performed by entertainers,” room service, minibar charges, a deep-tissue massage and a pet-cleaning fee.

As part of his plea, Prall agreed to pay restitution in the amount of $548,428—the total amount he raised—including the forfeiture of the $205,496.68 he transferred to himself through sham LLCs during the scheme. 

The FBI’s San Antonio Division is investigating the case.  Deputy Chief John D. Keller and Trial Attorney James C. Mann of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section are prosecuting the case. 












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