Anchorage doctor sentenced for prescribing medically unnecessary opioids in health care fraud scheme
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Michael Don Robertson, 68, a former Anchorage psychiatrist, was sentenced on January 6, 2021, by U.S. District Court Judge Sharon L. Gleason to 12 months home confinement and five years of probation for conspiracy to commit controlled substance fraud and one count of health care fraud. Robertson knowingly and intentionally distributed controlled substances outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose.
According to court documents, from May 2015 to March 2018, Robertson issued 465 prescriptions of meperidine to 30 different recipients, totaling 32,109 meperidine pills, knowing that the recipients did not truly need the medication for a legitimate medical purpose. The investigation revealed that Robertson issued the meperidine prescriptions as part of a conspiracy in which the recipients filled the meperidine prescriptions and, then, distributed the meperidine to Robertson. In exchange for the recipients diverting the meperidine to Robertson, Robertson provided prescriptions for controlled substances, including fentanyl and oxycodone, to the recipients. Meperidine, commonly known as Demerol, is a Schedule II controlled substance, and is an opioid with an abuse liability similar to morphine.
The investigation further revealed that Robertson failed to make and preserve accurate records regarding approximately 790 prescriptions for controlled substances and failed to keep any medical records whatsoever regarding five patients to whom he wrote prescriptions for controlled substances. In a scheme to obtain money from Medicaid, Robertson caused claims to be submitted to Medicaid regarding these 790 prescriptions, resulting in Medicaid paying $3,286.87 to Robertson’s medical practice. Further, Medicaid paid $3,601.52 to pharmacies for these 790 controlled substance prescriptions.
Robertson pleaded guilty to the charges on July 31, 2019. At sentencing today, Robertson apologized to the people that he involved in the scheme, the medical profession, and his family. Robertson voluntarily surrendered his medical license and DEA Registration after being questioned by law enforcement. The court held that 12 months of home incarceration was appropriate due the COVID pandemic and the need to impose a just sentence due to the severity of the crime, while also avoiding disparity with sentences for other similar drug crimes. In addition to the 12-month home confinement, Robertson was ordered to complete five years of probation and pay restitution in the amount of $6,888.39 to Medicaid to reimburse the cost of the illegally prescribed drugs.
United States Attorney Bryan Schroder commended the law enforcement team that investigated this case. "This conviction is a reminder that COVID is not the only pandemic confronting America and Alaska; fighting the opioid epidemic remains an important priority for the Department of Justice. Federal law enforcement investigates and prosecutes unlawful drug distribution, including that crime committed by doctors."
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS OIG), the State of Alaska Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) conducted the investigation leading to the successful prosecution in this case. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonas M. Walker.