FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) A Fort Wayne physician and two city pharmacists have been indicted on federal charges as part of what officials have called the largest healthcare fraud take-down in national history.
Charges were brought against James E. Ranochak, MD, and two pharmacists – Brent Losier and Charles Ringger – on Thursday for allegedly conspiring to distribute and dispense controlled substances without legitimate medical purpose as well as fraudulent billing. According to a news release from Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, the men were involved in distributing and prescribing controlled substances through North Anthony Pharmacy & Wellness Center.
It was September 2013 when multiple law enforcement agencies, including the DEA and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, helped serve a search warrant at the North Anthony Pharmacy & Wellness Center at 3537 N. Anthony Blvd. Police did not release any information at the time of the raid.
According to the federal indictment released Thursday, Ranochak, Losier and Ringger ran a controlled substance prescribing scheme through the North Anthony Pharmacy that fed high-power medications to patients, some who failed drug screens and others who did not require them.
Ranochak would prescribe controlled substances like testosterone, hydrocodone and methadone to patients without physically examining them or performing any actual medical tests. Federal prosecutors allege that Ranochak would “routinely” start patients at high dosages of controlled substances knowing it could result in dependence or addiction. He rarely, if ever, counseled patients on alternative treatments like physical therapy or addiction counseling, the indictment said.
A sign posted at Ranochak’s office instructed patients that all prescriptions had to be filled at North Anthony Pharmacy. An investigation found that Ranochak’s prescriptions made up 90 percent of the prescriptions filled by Losier and Ringger at North Anthony Pharmacy, according to the indictment.
At the pharmacy then, Ringger would conduct self-ordered urine screens on patients, who would be forced to pay for with cash to Ringger, according to the indictment. Ringger would buy those drug screen kits online or at a local discount store to test patients. The indictment said patients who failed the drug screens were still prescribed controlled substances if they paid cash, or a “penalty,” to Ringger and Ranochak, and Ringger would then consult the patients on how to pass a drug test.
Losier, then, would sign prescriptions for controlled drugs as Ranochak – even when the doctor wasn’t in the office – and then have them filled at North Anthony Pharmacy.
Thursday’s charges are part of a nationwide crackdown on heathcare fraud. In Indiana, seven federal criminal investigations uncovered more than $1 million in Medicaid fraud and 15 people and two companies were indicted on federal charges.
Nationwide, the U.S. Justice Department on Thursday charged more than 400 people for healthcare fraud and opioid scams that totaled $1.3 billion.READ | Full indictment
According to a news release from Hill’s office, Indiana’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigated licensed healthcare professionals and medical offices where suspected illegal activity occurred. Investigators uncovered illegal practices such as false and fraudulent billing, distributing and prescribing controlled substances without legitimate medical purpose, and money laundering schemes.
One investigation revealed that a transportation company was billing for trips that were never taken, uncovering more than $440,000 in fraudulent claims, according to the attorney general’s office.
“Medicaid fraud is not a victimless crime,” Hill said. “When licensed professionals and organizations target those who rely on Medicaid, they’re also putting taxpayers on the hook. These actions truly impact all of us. The culmination of these investigations is extremely rewarding for the investigators and lawyers in our Medicaid Fraud Control Unit who work tirelessly to bring these offenders to justice. I applaud their efforts.”
The North Anthony Pharmacy & Wellness Center remains open. Ringger told NewsChannel 15’s Alyssa Ivanson that his attorney instructed him not to discuss the allegations, but he said he denied the charges.