A McMurray doctor, who was accused of illegally prescribing narcotics, pleaded guilty to health care fraud and all related charges in court Tuesday.
, 40, of , appeared in federal district court before Judge Arthur Schwab. His attorney Roger Cox and Drug Enforcement Administration representatives—including assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Kaufman—were present to relay his summary of offenses.
Herndon, a 1996 graduate of Stanford University School of Medicine, and the parties reached a plea agreement.
Schwab said the maximum sentence could be up to 30 years in prison, a $1 million fine and mandatory restitution payments. The agreement states he’d have to acknowledge his responsibility to the remaining counts, provide his income, assets and financial statements, and that he would pay the $200 special assessment fee.
However, Kaufman suggested a sentence of 135 months, or just more than 11 years.
Kaufman summarized events observed by the DEA in the last year, including undercover detectives who were prescribed high doses of narcotics by Herndon.
He said Herndon prescribed 10,800 tablets of 30 mg oxycodone and 3,600 tablets of 30 mg oxymorphone, resulting in a cost to insurance companies of between $400,000 and $1 million.
Out of 128 pharmacies in western Pennsylvania, 87 refused to fill his prescriptions and one in Troy Hill had a sign in its window stating it would not fill prescriptions prescribed by Herndon.
Kaufman said his waiting rooms were always full—he saw 80 to 120 patients on average daily.
According to Kaufman, many of Herndon’s patients were in their 20s and 30s, and generally seemed “strung out or stoned.”
A Pittsburgh detective, who went undercover as a patient, paid $200 in cash for an appointment with Herndon in November 2011, Kaufman said.
Her appointment, which was audio recorded, lasted three minutes and 10 seconds, and no physical exams were given or tests ordered.
Herndon said to her, “As long as you’re cool as a cucumber, you can get your meds from me.”
His sentence hearing was set for Sept. 24, 2012 at 8:30 a.m. Herndon was ordered to turn over his passport and is not in custody.
A news conference will be held at 1 p.m. today to discuss the non-medical use of prescription drugs in western PA and Herndon’s plea.
Representatives of the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office along with Chief Harry Fruecht, West Mifflin police Chief Ken Davies, Pleasant Hills police Chief Ed Cunningham and Homestead police Chief Jeff DiSimone, will also participate.
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