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Alton doctor gets year and day in pill mill cases

EAST ST. LOUIS – Viwathna Bhuthimethee, 69, a medical doctor who operated the Walk In Clinic, located on East Broadway in Alton, was sentenced Friday in district court to 12 months and a day in federal prison on his guilty plea to 15 felony counts.

The indictment accused him of health care fraud against the Illinois Medicaid program and illegal distribution of controlled substances, Hydrocodone and Xanax, by prescribing outside the usual course of professional conduct and without legitimate medical purpose.

District Judge David Herndon also imposed a $5,000 fine, a $1,500 special assessment, restitution to Medicaid of $397.48, and two years of supervision following release from prison.

“Our evidence showed, for most patients, that Bhuthimethee did not operate a legitimate medical practice, but instead was engaged in a scheme to distribute controlled substances illegally, thereby defrauding Health Care Benefit Programs, namely, Illinois Medicaid, by running what was in essence a prescription service for drug addicts, commonly known as a ‘pill mill’,” said Stephen R. Wigginton, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Illinois.

“Whether you are a doctor, a lawyer, a pharmacist, or an accountant, you cannot hide behind a license and a diploma. If you commit federal crimes, you will be prosecuted,” he said in a statement.

The illegal distribution charges involved four specific patients to whom Bhuthimethee continued to prescribe controlled substances in spite of the patients’ “out of control behavior,” overdoses and failed drug screens.

The matter was investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General; the Drug Enforcement Administration; and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Illinois State Police, Medicaid Fraud Control Bureau; the Alton Police Department and the Madison County Coroner’s Office. The prosecution was handled by Assistant United States Attorney Michael J. Quinley and Special Assistant United States Attorney Stuart Zander.

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