A federal grand jury in Miami has indicted a physician and his assistant on charges they illegally distributed OxyContin and other controlled substances to Medicaid patients.
Armando Solis, M.D., was arrested Tuesday after the grand jury unsealed a 15-count indictment. He was charged with one count of conspiring to defraud the federal government in its administration of Medicaid, one count of conspiring to distribute controlled substances and 13 counts of distributing controlled substances.
Solis' medical assistant, Harold Fox, was charged in both conspiracies and in 11 of the 13 distribution counts.
Attorney General Charlie Crist said Solis was the largest prescriber of OxyContin to Medicaid patients in Florida. He said that evidence will show that "Dr. Solis was nothing more than a drug dealer in a white coat."
Solis was being held in federal detention until a Friday bond hearing. The government has recommended a $250,000 corporate surety bond for Solis and a $100,000, 10% bond for Fox. Fox's next hearing is Dec. 15.
In the past two years, more than $9.8 million in Medicaid drug costs have been subscribed using Solis' license number, with more than $925,000 of that for OxyContin prescriptions, according to investigators.
A message left at Solis' office was not returned Tuesday. Fox's home line was continuously busy.
According to the indictment, from 2003 to present, Solis and Fox gave prescriptions to Medicaid patients without properly determining whether they actually needed them. Solis allegedly signed prescriptions for OxyContin and other controlled substances for several patients without examining the individuals. One patient was told to deny having accepted controlled substances for other patients if questioned by investigators, according to the indictment.
"Prescription drug abuse takes more lives in our state than heroin and cocaine combined," Gov. Jeb Bush said in a written statement. Bush said the arrests send a strong message to medical professionals who illegally distribute prescription drugs. "They will not be tolerated in Florida," he said.
Solis and Fox each face up to 20 years on the drug distribution conspiracy charge; each drug distribution charge carries a maximum punishment of either three or 20 years in prison, depending on the controlled substance that was distributed. If convicted of the fraud conspiracy charge, each faces five years in prison.
The recently formed joint state and federal Diversion Response Teams were responsible for the indictment and arrest. The teams provide increased surveillance over large quantities of prescription drugs in the marketplace.