Anderson expected to appeal sentence
Nearly five years from the date a joint investigation in Marietta netted a federal raid on the city’s brick streets, a former local physician was sentenced to prison this month.
On Feb. 4, 2016, the combined forces of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the State of Ohio Medical Board, Marietta Police and Washington County Sheriff’s Office, blocked traffic in the 100-block of Putnam Street and executed a search warrant on two downtown offices in that block.
The offices were that of, now, 63-year-old Dr. Roger Anderson.
Now, the former Fleming resident has been sentenced to eight years in prison, following a March 2020 conviction by a jury in the U.S. District Court Southern District of Ohio; Eastern Division.
The presiding judge, Algenon L. Marbley, assigned the prison term Friday.
Clay Johnson, one of the defense attorneys appearing in the case Friday, explained that no decision has yet been determined whether Anderson will seek a stay of the prison sentence, pending an appeal.
“As far as I know from my discussions with Mr. Anderson and Mr. (John J.) Markham, there is an intent to appeal that,” said Johnson, of the firm Johnson and Core LLP of Columbus. “I can’t speak on what grounds (would be) asserted in the appeal at this time because it hasn’t been fully drafted as far as I understand.”
Johnson explained that he was party to the defense alongside lead attorney Markham, out of Boston, Mass.
Anderson was known for many years in Marietta as both a physician and a downtown commercial property owner, including work with Memorial Health System and the ownership of Putnam Commons (the former JCPenney), a private practice; ambulance service and other downtown business locations.
At the time of the raid, law enforcement removed records, files, electronics and full cabinets from Anderson’s Putnam offices and indicated the search warrant executed followed a more than two-year-old investigation at the time (basing the impetus on or before 2014).
“We were aware of him sometime before the actual investigation started,” said Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks on Monday.
Last year, jurors convicted Anderson of the first 10 out of 14 federal charges in a trial that lasted nearly two weeks, and of which the body deliberated for five hours before reaching its verdict.
Charges included nine distribution-specific felonies concerning the illegitimate distribution of opioids which the government’s case alleged were handed out by staff utilizing pre-signed prescriptions.
Those charges alleged that Anderson:
1. Knowingly, intentionally and unlawfully combining, conspiring, confederating and agreeing with others to knowingly, intentionally and unlawfully distribute and dispense, or cause to be distributed and dispensed through prescriptions, mixtures of substances containing a detectable amount of a Schedule II controlled substance, other than for a legitimate medical purpose in the usual course of professional practice.
According to the federal prosecutors after the trial concluded, Anderson mixed drugs in dangerous combinations, including a concoction known as a “Holy Trinity” which included a painkiller, a tranquilizer and a muscle relaxant.
2. Knowingly and intentionally dispensing and distributing a quantity of a Schedule II controlled substance, 120 Oxycodone (at a dosage of) 5 milligrams, not for a legitimate medical purpose.
The prescription opioid is often used for pain management and some brand names include OxyContin, Percocet and Roxicet.
3. Knowingly and intentionally dispensing and distributing a quantity of a Schedule II controlled substance, 150 Hydrocodone-Acetaminophen 10/325 milligram (dosage), not for a legitimate medical purpose.
The fractional dosage of the combined drug indicates that 10 milligrams of each pill contain hydrocodone (the narcotic, opioid pain reliever known over-the-counter as the brand names Vicodin, Lortab, Norco or Zydone and street names of hydros, tabs, Watsons, Vics, 357s, Vicos, Lorris/Loris) and 325 milligrams of the pill contains the other medicine (acetaminophen or known over-the-counter as the brand name Tylenol).
4. Knowingly and intentionally dispensing and distributing a quantity of a Schedule II controlled substance, 90 Oxycodone-Acetaminophen 5/325 milligrams, not for legitimate medical purpose.
Commonly named: Percocet.
5. Knowingly and intentionally dispensing and distributing a quantity of a Schedule II controlled substance, 180 Oxycodone-Acetaminophen 10/325 milligrams, not for a legitimate medical purpose.
6. Knowingly and intentionally dispensing and distributing a quantity of a Schedule II controlled substance, 120 Hydrocodone-Acetaminophen 10/325 milligrams, not for a legitimate medical purpose.
7. Knowingly and intentionally dispensing and distributing a quantity of a Schedule II controlled substance, 120 Oxycodone HCL (hydrochloride) 10 milligrams, not for a legitimate medical purpose.
This form of the opioid is an extended-release film-coated tablet predominately known as OxyContin, or Oxy.
8. Knowingly and intentionally dispensing and distributing a quantity of a Schedule II controlled substance, 120 Oxycodone-Acetaminophen 7.5/325 milligrams, not for a legitimate medical purpose.
9. Knowingly and intentionally dispensing and distributing a quantity of a Schedule II controlled substance, 120 Hydrocodone-Acetaminophen 10/325 milligrams, not for a legitimate medical purpose.
Counts 2-9 allege the distribution of 1,020 opioid pills without a legitimate medical purpose.
Such prescriptions, the trial prosecutors alleged, which were prescribed in the same timeframe as identified across the U.S. by the National Institutes of Health reported a parallel of increased rates of opioid pain reliever prescribing with widespread misuse leading to opioid overdose deaths and a nationwide crisis.
“Anderson ignored blatant red flags that his patients were abusing and diverting the opioids he prescribed,” said U.S. Attorney David DeVillers in a statement in 2020.
According to the March 2019 federal indictment, Anderson allowed the distribution of such pills from a kiosk at Putnam Commons without establishing “legitimate diagnosis of patients, or creat[ing] treatment goals for the care of the patient.”
“It was further part of the conspiracy that Anderson would not request prior medical records or determine the legitimacy of medical complaints of patients,” the 18-page indictment continued. “It was further part of the conspiracy that Anderson would infrequently conduct urine screens, but frequently ignore the results. It was further part of the conspiracy that Anderson failed to monitor prescription data monitoring programs that assisted practitioners in identifying patients that exhibited doctor shopping behavior.”
The indictment alleged that this conspiracy dated at least as far back as January of 2012.
10. Knowingly and willfully executing a scheme or artifice to defraud health care benefit program in connection with the delivery or payment for, health care benefits, items or services by causing the submission of claims to health care benefit programs for prescriptions that were issued in violation of law or otherwise outside the bounds of accepted medical practice.
In addition to the previously explained charges, Anderson’s first count of fraud added the accusation of causing the submission of claims to health care benefit programs where, according to the indictment “there was no evidence or documentation that the visit ever occurred” and caused the billing for claims “falsely representing the level of exam and medical decision making used during the office visit, in order to receive inflated reimbursement from the health care benefit programs.”
He was convicted on March 5, 2020, of the first 10 charges and the final four fraud-related felony charges (attempt and conspiracy to commit mail fraud and three more counts of health care fraud) were dismissed.
Marbley ordered that each of the 8-year prison sentences for each of the 10 counts to be served concurrently .
“It varies, but typically in a federal case like this one, you’re given a day to report,” explained Johnson of the federal process. “You can petition the court to stay that while your appeal is pending, but again, just to reiterate, I can’t confirm that that’s what we are doing here. I’m sure it’s something that we will examine (and) quite possibly request of the court.”
Johnson’s explanation of the time assigned to Johnson was consistent with Washington County Prosecutor Nicole Coil’s brief explanation in 2020 to the Times of sentencing guidelines for federal criminal cases.
“The (prosecution) typically is trying to get as many enhancements as they can get to increase a sentencing guideline level,” explained Johnson. “Typically a defense counsel is tasked with ensuring that is the lowest possible guideline number … then ultimately, (arguments will) go into the calculation of what enhancements are appropriate, which aren’t.”
Coil explained last year that the final offense level is cross-referenced with a criminal sentencing table to determine final guidelines for the convicted crimes.
“Federal sentencing differs from state sentencing in that there are guidelines and points tallied to determine the sentence based upon the seriousness of the crime and the offender’s criminal history,” she said.
According to Mincks on Monday, no cases or charges locally were pending concerning Anderson, though he had faced 2015 charges connected to allegedly harboring a fugitive from justice in 2015.
Federal prosecutors could not be reached Monday for comment.
Anderson is also separately represented before the Southern District of Ohio’s Judge C. Kathryn Preston in an open bankruptcy case filed in November of 2019.
That case, filing under United States Code Chapter 12 rules, assigned a trustee effective Jan. 1, of this year concerning Anderson’s 4450 Barnett Ridge Road property in Fleming.
According to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, a Chapter 12 bankruptcy filing is designed for “family farmers” or “family fishermen” with “regular annual income.” It enables financially distressed family farmers and fishermen to propose and carry out a plan to repay all or part of their debts. Under chapter 12, debtors propose a repayment plan to make installments to creditors over three to five years. Generally, the plan must provide for payments over three years unless the court approves a longer period “for cause.” But unless the plan proposes to pay 100 percent of domestic support claims (i.e., child support and alimony) if any exist, it must be for five years and must include all of the debtor’s disposable income. In no case may a plan provide for payments over a period longer than five years.
The last filing in that still-open bankruptcy case was on Dec. 20, 2019.