In a recent case of healthcare fraud, a suburban Chicago physician has been sentenced to federal prison for prescribing opioids to patients without conducting a medical examination. Eliza Diaconescu, a 74-year-old physician from Lake Forest, Illinois, pleaded guilty to a federal health care fraud charge earlier this year. She admitted that from 2016 to 2021, she pre-signed prescriptions for opioids for patients at her pain clinic in Gurnee, Illinois, without actually examining them. Diaconescu and others at the clinic then created false paperwork to indicate face-to-face exams had taken place, allowing her to bill Medicare for reimbursement. As a result, Diaconescu has been sentenced to six months in federal prison and ordered to pay $84,031 in restitution to Medicare. This case highlights the seriousness of healthcare fraud and the importance of accurate billing for medical services.
Suburban Chicago Physician Sentenced to Federal Prison for Prescribing Opioids Without a Medical Exam
In a recent case that has garnered significant attention, a suburban Chicago physician has been sentenced to a federal prison term for prescribing opioids to patients without conducting a medical examination and subsequently billing Medicare for the purported treatment. The physician, Eliza Diaconescu, pleaded guilty earlier this year to a federal health care fraud charge. Diaconescu admitted to pre-signing prescriptions for opioids for patients at her pain clinic in Gurnee, Illinois, even when she was not present at the clinic. This fraudulent practice was accompanied by false paperwork and claims indicating that Diaconescu had personally examined these patients. As a result, Diaconescu knowingly submitted false claims seeking reimbursement from Medicare for these non-existent examinations. These actions have resulted in significant legal consequences for Diaconescu.
Charges against the physician
Diaconescu faced a federal health care fraud charge for her prescription practices. By pre-signing prescriptions for opioids, creating false paperwork, and knowingly submitting false claims seeking reimbursement from Medicare, Diaconescu engaged in fraudulent activities that compromised the integrity of the medical profession and defrauded the government healthcare program.
Sentencing and Restitution
As a result of her actions, Diaconescu has been sentenced to six months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Steven C. Seeger. In addition to the prison term, Diaconescu has been ordered to pay $84,031 in restitution to Medicare. This restitution serves to reimburse Medicare for the fraudulent claims that Diaconescu submitted seeking reimbursement for non-existent examinations.
Fraudulent Prescription Practices
Diaconescu’s fraudulent prescription practices involved pre-signing prescriptions for hydrocodone, oxycodone, and fentanyl for patients at her pain clinic in Gurnee, Illinois. These prescriptions were provided to patients even when Diaconescu was not physically present at the clinic. Additionally, Diaconescu and others at the clinic created false paperwork indicating that she had conducted face-to-face exams with the patients, when in reality, the patients had only come to pick up the pre-signed prescriptions and had not visited with Diaconescu. These fraudulent practices allowed Diaconescu to bill Medicare for the purported examinations, further exacerbating the fraudulent nature of her actions.
Knowledge of fraudulent activity
Diaconescu admitted in her plea agreement that she knowingly engaged in fraudulent activity. By pre-signing prescriptions, creating false paperwork, and submitting false claims seeking reimbursement from Medicare, Diaconescu was well aware that she was involved in illegal and fraudulent behavior. This knowledge further demonstrates the severity of her actions and the need for accountability.
Law Enforcement Agencies Involved
Multiple law enforcement agencies were involved in this case to ensure the prosecution and sentencing of Diaconescu. These agencies include the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Department of Labor. The collaboration between these agencies underscores the commitment to combating the unlawful distribution of opioids and holding accountable those who engage in fraudulent practices.
Role of Opioid Task Force
The U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Opioid Task Force played a crucial role in investigating and prosecuting Diaconescu’s fraudulent practices. Formed in 2019, the task force is dedicated to combatting the unlawful distribution of controlled substances, particularly opioids. The goal of the task force is to actively pursue cases like Diaconescu’s to safeguard public health and well-being by addressing the nationwide opioid crisis.
Purpose of the task force
The purpose of the Opioid Task Force is to coordinate efforts among various law enforcement agencies and organizations to combat the unlawful distribution of opioids. The task force focuses on investigating healthcare fraud, illegal opioid prescribing practices, and related crimes. By pooling the resources and expertise of the participating agencies, the task force aims to disrupt and dismantle criminal networks involved in the unlawful distribution of opioids.
Efforts to combat unlawful distributions of opioids
The Opioid Task Force employs a multi-pronged approach to combat unlawful distributions of opioids. This includes conducting comprehensive investigations into healthcare providers suspected of fraudulent practices, collaborating with other agencies to identify and prosecute individuals involved in illegal prescribing and distribution, and public outreach and education programs aimed at raising awareness about the dangers of opioid abuse and the importance of proper prescriptions and medical examinations. By taking a proactive stance, the task force aims to create a safe and healthy environment for individuals in need of medical treatment.
Government’s Argument for Harsh Sentence
The government argued for a harsh sentence for Diaconescu based on the gross abuse of trust she exhibited and the impact her actions had on Medicare funds. As a medical professional, Diaconescu held a position of trust and responsibility. Her fraudulent conduct exploited this trust and compromised the integrity of the healthcare system. Additionally, Diaconescu’s actions resulted in the fraudulent use of Medicare funds, which should have been allocated towards providing legitimate medical services to beneficiaries. The government’s argument underscores the serious nature of Diaconescu’s actions and the necessity for a strong deterrent against such behavior.
This case involving Diaconescu is not an isolated incident. Similar instances of healthcare fraud and illegal practices have been prosecuted in the Chicago area. For example, a suburban Chicago doctor was sentenced to federal prison and fined $1 million for health care fraud. Additionally, a former Department of Veterans Affairs procurement supervisor was found guilty of pocketing kickbacks, and a Chicago doctor and his wife were held liable for taking kickbacks and causing false Medicare claims. These related cases further highlight the need for robust enforcement and prosecution of healthcare fraud to protect public trust and ensure the integrity of government programs.
For more information about this case or any related matters, individuals can reach out to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois. The office can be contacted via email or phone for further inquiries or assistance.
The case of the suburban Chicago physician sentenced to federal prison serves as a stark reminder of the importance of holding physicians accountable for fraudulent practices. Diaconescu’s actions compromised the integrity of the medical profession, exploited the trust of patients, and defrauded the government healthcare program. The sentencing and restitution ordered by the court reflect the seriousness of her actions. It is imperative to continue the proactive efforts of the Opioid Task Force and other law enforcement agencies to combat healthcare fraud and ensure the delivery of safe and legitimate medical services to patients in need. By holding individuals accountable for their fraudulent practices, public trust can be restored, and the integrity of the healthcare system can be preserved.