PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WTVQ) – A Kentucky doctor and his former office assistant pleaded guilty
Friday to their roles in unlawfully distributing opioids and other controlled substances when they didn’t have a legitimate medical practice.
According to federal prosecutors, 48-year-old Dr. Scotty Akers, a licensed physician, and Serissa Akers, 33, his wife and former office assistant, both of Pikeville, pleaded guilty to unlawfully distributing controlled substances. As part of the plea, Dr. Akers also agreed to a money judgement of $12,275.
Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 20.
The two were among 60 people, including several Kentucky doctors, who were charged in a massive crackdown on the illegal prescribing and distributing of narcotics by the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force.
Those charged covered at least seven states and the 60 are linked to 350,000 prescriptions and 32 million pills, prosecutors said at the time the charged were announced in April 2019.
As part of their guilty pleas, the couple admitted to using Facebook messenger to sell unnecessary prescriptions for opioids.
According to the deal, Serissa Stamper Akers exchanged prescriptions written by Dr. Akers for cash in parking lots around Pikeville. The defendants also admitted Dr. Akers performed no physical examinations that would justify these parking-lot prescriptions, and failed to engage in other measures that prevent the abuse and diversion of opioids, prosecutors said.
The two continued operating their opioid-delivery scheme even after they came under investigation and up until the moment when Dr. Akers’ medical license was suspended.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Robert M. Duncan Jr. of the Eastern District of Kentucky, Special Agent in Charge Derrick Jackson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Atlanta Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey T. Scott of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Louisville Field Division, and Executive Director W. Bryan Hubbard of the Kentucky Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) made the announcement.
HHS-OIG, DEA and Kentucky MFCU investigated the case.
Assistant Chief Katherine E. Payerle and Trial Attorney Dermot Lynch of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Smith of the Eastern District of Kentucky are prosecuting the case.
The Fraud Section leads the ARPO Strike Force.
Since its inception in October 2018, the ARPO Strike Force, which operates in 10 districts, has charged more than 70 defendants who are collectively responsible for distributing approximately 50 million pills.
Thus far there have been 30 guilty pleas as a result of ARPO Strike Force’s efforts. The ARPO Strike Force is part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force Program, led by the Fraud Section.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which maintains 15 strike forces operating in 24 districts, has charged more than 4,200 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for approximately $19 billion.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-Office of Inspector General, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
Individuals who believe that they may be a victim in this case should visit the Fraud Section’s Victim Witness website for more information.
The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice. Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.