From The Tribune staff reports
WASHINGTON – An Alabama doctor and her husband were sentenced Tuesday to 52 and 30 months in prison, respectively, for prescribing and dispensing controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose and outside the course of professional practice.
Elizabeth Korcz, M.D., 48, and Matthew Korcz, 47, both of Hoover, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and dispense a controlled substance on Dec. 16, 2020. According to court documents, the defendants admitted to providing dangerous doses of hydrocodone to patients who were not examined by a medical professional and while Dr. Korcz was absent from their clinic. The defendants owned and operated Hoover Alt MD, a purported medical clinic with an in-house dispensary. The defendants did not employ registered nurses or other qualified medical professionals, despite Dr. Korcz’s absences. The defendants admitted to allowing hydrocodone to be dispensed from their in-house dispensary while Dr. Korcz was out of state on multiple occasions.
“Doctors who abuse their position of trust to unlawfully prescribe opioids for profit are fueling our country’s epidemic,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The devastation to our communities caused by that betrayal of trust requires just punishment, as the court imposed.”
“It is disheartening when trusted medical professionals are engaged in the diversion of controlled substances,” said Special Agent in Charge Brad L. Byerley of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). “Doctors have an obligation to ensure that prescription medications are getting into the hands of legitimate patients. This investigation is the result of DEA’s continued commitment to hold accountable those who participate in illegally dispensing controlled substances in our communities.”
“Health care professionals should be trusted and not exploit their profession to line their pockets,” said Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp Jr of the FBI’s Birmingham Field Office. “I applaud the sentence handed down that holds the Korczs accountable for their greed, fraud and deceit. The FBI and our law enforcement partners will continue to root out fraud in the health care industry at every level and protect the public from their illegal and potentially deadly schemes.”
The DEA and FBI investigated the case.
Trial Attorney Devon Helfmeyer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney J.B. Ward of the Northern District of Alabama prosecuted the case.
The Fraud Section leads the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force. Since its inception in October 2018, the ARPO Strike Force, which operates in 10 districts, has charged more than 85 defendants who are collectively responsible for distributing more than 65 million pills. Since its inception in March 2007, the Health Care 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 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.