Benzodiazepines (also known as “benzos”) are a type of medication that treats such conditions such as anxiety, insomnia and seizures. Most commonly referred to as tranquilizers, familiar brands of benzodiazepines are Valium and Xanax.
While these meds are regularly prescribed medications in the United States, many people attempt to get prescriptions for them because of their sedating effects. Benzodiazepines are psychoactive drugs that serve as depressants which lower brain activity. You can imagine the damage that these tranquilizers can do to people when they are abused.
Dr. Mohamad Och has been indicted for illegal distribution of benzodiazepines.
As reported by the District of Massachusetts branch of the United States Department of Justice this week, the Worcester-based psychiatrist has been indicted. He is charged with eight counts of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance and two counts of health care fraud. Och was arrested this past Monday and released on conditions following an appearance before a federal judge. He is accused of illegally prescribing controlled substances to patients and submitting false reimbursement claims to defraud the Medicare program.
Och was a licensed psychiatrist who owned and operated Island Counseling Center (ICC), reports the DoJ. The 65 year-old has also practiced psychiatry in other parts of Massachusetts including Nantucket. As part of his services to patients, Och was authorized to prescribe Schedule II-IV controlled substances.
Och repeatedly prescribed a combination of benzodiazepines and stimulants.
According to the charging documents, many of Och’s prescriptions contained the mixture of meds without a legitimate medical purpose. In particular, Och is accused of writing numerous illegal prescriptions between August 2016 and March 2017. Allegedly, he knowingly issued prescriptions for Adderall and combined it with either Xanax or Klonopin. Adderall is a Schedule II controlled substance. Both Xanax and Klonopin are Schedule IV controlled substances.
As the DoJ details, “it is also alleged that between approximately January 2016 and July 2017, Och engaged in a scheme to defraud Medicare by submitting or causing to be submitted false and fraudulent claims in connection with office visits in order to obtain greater reimbursements than he was entitled to receive based on the services actually provided.”
Och faces heavy sentencing if convicted.
The charge of illegal prescription of a Schedule II controlled substance calls for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. It also includes three years of supervised release and a fine of $1 million. The charge of illegal prescription of a Schedule IV controlled substance can draw a sentence of up to five years in prison. As well, it includes three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.
The charge of health care fraud conspiracy provides for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison in addition to three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.
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