Tenn. doctor sentenced to 18-months for drug trafficking, health care fraud

Officials said the charges stem from LaPaglia’s role in n a mobile Suboxone clinic.
Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 1:23 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - A Tennessee doctor was sentenced to 18 months in prison for drug trafficking and health care fraud, according to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee.

Michael LaPaglia, 49, who previously lost his authorization to write prescriptions for controlled substances, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to distribute controlled substances and one count of making a material false statement in connection with the delivery of health care benefits.

Officials said the charges stem from LaPaglia’s role in a mobile Suboxone clinic. LaPaglia allegedly issued prescriptions for Suboxone, Clonazepam, diazepam and Pregabalin in the name of another doctor.

In 2018, FBI investigators and the Department of Health and Human Services responded to a complaint that LaPaglia was issuing prescriptions for Suboxone without the proper authority.

“The public places great trust in our medical professionals, and our office is committed to safeguarding that trust through the vigorous enforcement of federal laws,” said Acting United States Attorney Francis M. Hamilton III. “Doctors are supposed to help people, not hurt them, and those who abuse their position by illegally prescribing opioids will be prosecuted.”

LaPaglia reportedly met patients at his home and in parking lots. Officials said LaPaglia would then give the customers prescriptions, signed by another doctor, for controlled substances.

Customers were charged $300 cash per monthly visit. The customers would then take their prescriptions to be filled at pharmacies, where a number of them used their health insurance to pay for the controlled substances.

“Tennessee remains at the epicenter of the opioid crisis. Opioid abuse destroys lives, and it devastates families. It is extremely disappointing when caregivers allow greed and selfishness to violate their oath to help those in need. The FBI along with our federal, state, and local partners will continue to investigate and hold those accountable to face the consequences of their actions,” said Joseph E. Carrico, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Knoxville office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The charges were the result of an investigation by FBI, HHS, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

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