A week to the day after the landmark conviction of pain doctors Dr. Xiulu Ruan and Dr. John Patrick Couch, federal officials don’t appear to be losing their focus on the improper prescribing and criminal diversion of opioid pain medication.
Last week, a jury in Mobile found Ruan and Couch guilty of 19 federal charges ranging from conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, health care fraud, violating anti-kickback statutes and violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
The case still appears to be the first time in United States history that a jury has convicted doctors of RICO charges — originally intended to combat organized crime — in relation to the operation of a pill mill.
The seven-week trial ended with one of the more high-profile victories in recent memory for U.S. Attorney Kenyen Brown and his office in the Southern District of Alabama. However, on Thursday, Brown deflected any praise to the jurors who heard more than 200 hours of testimony and the multiple law enforcement agencies that assisted with the case.“Health care professionals should be held to a higher standard and a federal jury confirmed that,” Brown said. “This office will continue to aggressively prosecute these types of cases as they are crucial to the state of this nation’s health care status.”
With the convictions of Ruan and Couch in the rearview mirror, Brown’s office also publicly acknowledged the details of the assets the doctors have agreed to forfeit to the government — a list that includes millions of dollars worth real estate, luxury cars and cash.
According to the release, the defendants agreed to forfeit “several houses, beach condos” and multiple bank accounts along with 23 vehicles including multiple Bentleys, Lamborghinis, Mercedes, and Ferraris. In addition, each of the doctors also agreed to hand over an additional $5 million in cash to government — the result of a monetary judgment against them.
The forfeiture element of these type of “pill mill’ cases has been criticized by doctors caught up in them as well as the attorneys who represent them with many defendants often accusing the government of targeting pain clinics and pharmacies because of those lucrative forfeitures.
When Ruan and Couch were first indicted during the DEA’s “Operation Pillution” in 2015, the agency seized more than $12 million in liquid assets, over $7 million in property and 51 vehicles during synchronized raids in four states across the Southeast.