Two Physicians Indicted in Pain-Med Deaths of 4 Patients

August 12, 2011

August 12, 2011 — Two physicians who once practiced in Colorado face federal charges of illegally prescribing opioid analgesics and other controlled substances that led 4 patients to overdose and die. They also face charges of healthcare fraud and money laundering.

If convicted, Sam Jahani, DO, of Cleveland, Texas, and Eric Peper, MD, of Summerland Key, Florida, could receive long prison sentences and pay millions of dollars in fines. The charges related to the patient deaths come with the most severe punishment — life imprisonment.

The criminal charges, filed last week in a US District Court in Denver, Colorado, pertain to a period between January 1, 2006, and April 30, 2010, when Dr. Jahani operated urgent-care centers in 3 Colorado cities — Montrose, Delta, and Grand Junction. Dr. Peper worked at 2 of the centers.

According to a grand jury indictment, the 2 clinicians prescribed controlled substances, such as oxycodone, alprazolam (Xanax, Pfizer), diazepam, and fentanyl, to known drug addicts without a basis in medical necessity. The indictment alleges that the physicians "prescribed controlled substances in such strengths and quantities that their prescribing became a contributing factor in the patients' overdose deaths."

The healthcare fraud charges stem from the physicians allegedly falsifying medical records and overbilling third-party payers, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers, for their services. The indictment claims that Dr. Jahani even submitted claims for services never rendered, including those for dead patients. In addition, third-party payers reimbursed pharmacies for the controlled substances that the physicians prescribed.

Dr. Jahani and Dr. Peper were hit with the money-laundering charges because they conducted various financial transactions using third-party reimbursements for allegedly fraudulent claims.

Indicted Physicians Have Had Run-Ins With Authorities Before

The 2 physicians are no strangers to professional controversy. While he was practicing in Dallas, Texas, Dr. Jahani was accused in a federal civil lawsuit of overcharging Medicare for services that were not medically necessary, not provided as billed, or not provided in compliance with federal and state law. The federal government claimed damages of $5 million.

Dr. Jahani settled his civil case in 2004. In such settlements, defendants do not have to admit to any wrongdoing, but Dr. Jahani entered into a 42-page "integrity agreement" with the US Department of Health and Human Services.

After a 2-year hiatus from working as a cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Peper was ordered by the Colorado State Board of Medical Examiners in 2005 to complete an educational program before resuming his surgical practice or providing nonsurgical care in Colorado. The order came after the board investigated a complaint about Dr. Peper involving 19 patients.

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