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  • A doctor and two pharmacists from North Anthony Pharmacy and Wellness Center were indicted on Thursday as part of a nationwide health care fraud effort. (Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette)

Friday, July 14, 2017 1:00 am

Feds indict 3 in health care sting

N. Anthony doctor, pharmacists face multiple counts

FRANK GRAY | The Journal Gazette

A Fort Wayne doctor and two local pharmacists have been indicted on 10 counts of conspiracy, distributing a controlled substance and conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

It was part of a nationwide law enforcement push that netted 412 arrests in an attempt to fight the national opioid crisis, top federal officials announced Thursday. They also hinted at more arrests to come.

Dr. James E. Ranochak and pharmacists Brent A. Losier and Charles H. Ringger were named in a federal indictment issued in June and unsealed this week.

The indictment says the three operated out of the North Anthony Pharmacy and Wellness Center at 3533 N. Anthony Blvd. Ranochak's practice was based in the pharmacy.

The local men were among 15 individuals and two companies in Indiana who were indicted in what the Indiana attorney general called the largest health care fraud take down in U.S. history. Nationally, false billing of Medicare, Medicaid and military health insurance provider TRICARE totaled about $1.3 billion, federal officials said. No local fraud amount was available Thursday.

According to the indictment, as part of a conspiracy Losier and Ringger would screen potential patients for Ranochak.

Ranochak would then prescribe methadone, hydrocodone and testosterone to the patients without performing any medical examination or tests. The indictment said he would write prescriptions outside the scope of his professional practice and not for legitimate medical purposes.

Losier and Ringger kept patient files in the pharmacy, not on the doctor's office. They would sign Ranochak's name to prescriptions when the doctor was not in, the indictment alleges.

Ranochak would also put fictitious information in the patient's chart to justify prescriptions he wrote, the indictment said.

Patients would on occasion be given urine tests. The test kits were bought either on the Internet or at local dollar stores. If a patient failed a urine test, he would be assessed a penalty but would still be written a prescription, the indictment said.

The indictment said that all of Ranochak's patients were required to have their prescriptions filled at the North Anthony Pharmacy, and 90 percent of the prescriptions filled at the pharmacy were written by Ranochak.

The conspiracy was designed to enrich the three and caused thousands of dollars in fraudulent claims to be submitted to Indiana Medicaid for unnecessary drugs, the indictment said.

Officials with the Indiana Medicaid Fraud Control Unit said the North Anthony Pharmacy operation first came to their attention in 2012. The investigation, which had been ongoing since 2013, involved the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Indiana State Police and the U.S. attorney's office.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the record number of arrests, which included more than 120 people allegedly involved in prescribing opioids, is a preview of a more aggressive approach to combating the nation's spiraling epidemic of drug addiction.

“We believe there are a lot more cases that need to be brought,” Sessions said, adding that some of the arrests started with computer work to identify outliers who were prescribing far more drugs than average.

Most of the arrests took place this week, including 77 people in Florida who were charged in various schemes – including recruiting addicts to move to Palm Beach in return for gift cards, casino trips and visits to strip clubs.

Most of the cases involve false billings of Medicare for pills, equipment and services that were never provided.

Top officials said the government must find ways to reduce the demand for prescription narcotics. Four of five new heroin addicts start with prescription pain pills, said Chuck Rosenberg, acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said the Trump administration is committed to combating the crisis in other ways besides enforcement. Many people are not getting into recovery programs, he said.

In West Virginia, Price said, “one firefighter revived the same young lady three times in one day. That's a system that is failing that individual.” 

fgray@jg.net

News services contributed to this story.