Doctor and pharmacist face fraud charges brought by the Department of Justice.
Dr. Brian James August, 60, of El Paso, Texas, faces opioid overdose and fraud charges for allegedly prescribing addictive medications to “patients for more than six years, which resulted in the deaths of five people,” according to court records. Prescriptions included hydromorphone, oxycodone, methadone, fentanyl, hydrocodone, and morphine that were made “to patients outside the usual course of medical practice and without legitimate medical purpose,” the indictment claims.
August was indicted on five counts each of “distribution of a controlled substance resulting in death or serious bodily injury, distribution of a controlled substance and health care fraud resulting in death.” Authorities contend he was distributing these between December 2012 to April 2018. The doctor allegedly created fake appointments and filled false prescriptions to clients without medical need, leading to fraud charges. Because of this, five people lost their lives. The 15-count federal grand jury indictment also accused August of committing health care fraud by billing for services he did not perform.
“Doctors take an oath to do no harm,” said Kyle W. Williamson, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)’s El Paso Division. “When doctors violate that oath by illegally distributing prescription drugs, their actions can kill. Stopping the illegal diversion of prescription drugs is a high priority for DEA, and we will continue to pursue such offenders, no matter who they are.”
August faces up to twenty years to life in federal prison if convicted on the opioid and fraud charges. According to the Texas Medical Board, his medical license is still active and there have been no prior records of discipline.
As authorities moved in on August, a federal court in Brooklyn, New York, sentenced Harris Hussnain, 41, a pharmacy owner from Queens to 36 months in prison for his “participation in a health care fraud conspiracy, distribution of oxycodone ,and illegal financial transactions.”
Hussnain pleaded guilty to the charges back in September of last year. In the over-three-year span between July 2016 and December 2019, he falsely claimed to be the pharmacist at New Moon Pharmacy in South Richmond Hill, “dispensing prescription medications for years with no medical oversight,” investigators said.
“Hussnain masqueraded as a health care professional when, in reality, he is a drug-dealing criminal who abused the trust of the Medicare and Medicaid systems, put New Moon Pharmacy’s customers in harm’s way and introduced thousands of Oxycodone pills into the community during an opioid epidemic,” said Acting United States Attorney Lesko. “With today’s sentence, the defendant has been held accountable for his flagrant falsehoods and fraud.”
“Hussnain brazenly deceived the pharmacy’s customers and threatened their safety in exchange for profit,” added HHS-OIG Special Agent in Charge Lampert. “After inappropriately and dangerously dispensing opioid pills and stealing from Medicare and Medicaid, Hussnain has been brought to justice. OIG continues to work with our law enforcement partners to pursue individuals who endanger beneficiaries and cheat the Federal health care programs on which they depend.”