Doctor charged in opioid scheme once fell asleep during surgery

Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Two doctors from West Michigan are named by federal investigators as complicit in nearly $500 million in fraud and more than 13 million illicit prescriptions.

The U.S. Attorney says the six doctors accused worked out of two Detroit-area clinics.

From early 2013 until last month, the doctors allegedly prescribed 13.2 million doses of popular opioids, including OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin and Dilaudid. They also performed unnecessary medical services like magnetic resonance imaging, unneeded braces and painful spinal injections on patients. 

“Their first obligation is to do no harm and to follow the law and the allegation here is they did neither,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said.

One of the accused doctors is Christopher Russo, a doctor who practiced at the Javery Pain Institute in Grand Rapids Township until 2016, before he went to Detroit and allegedly committed the acts that caught the attention of the U.S. Attorney.

In 2013, Russo treated Jennifer Light at Javery Pain Institute. Light says she received unnecessary treatments that caused lasting damage and was prescribed opioids that left her physically addicted.

“I wanna know how many years back this goes, how many patients did these six doctors do this to,” Light said.

In statements to 24 Hour News 8 and on its Facebook page, Javery points out that the current allegations against Russo occurred after he left and federal investigators have not said whether or not Javery is under investigation.

But before Javery, Russo was working at Muskegon’s Hackley Hospital, and it was there he was accused of conduct that would result in his license being suspended for eight years.

According to state documents, Russo was working as a 31-year-old surgical anesthesiologist at Muskegon’s Hackley Hospital on Dec. 15, 1999.

While responsible for a patient undergoing surgery, Russo fell asleep, according to state records. When a nurse awakened him, he pulled out the patient’s tracheal tube and then fell asleep again.

This led to Russo having his license taken away and he was supposed to seek addiction treatment at a Grand Rapids facility. But he allegedly failed to comply and then relapsed and ended up enrolling in a residential treatment facility in Atlanta.

In June of 2008, His license was reinstated by the State Board of Medicine Disciplinary Subcommittee.

But now he faces as much as 10 years in prison accused of defrauding Medicare out of thousands of dollars for unnecessary procedures and illicitly prescribing the opioid-based hydrocodone-acetaminophen.

The alleged crimes allegedly happened between April of 2017 and March of this year. 

“These doctors are examples of failing in the profession,” Schneider said.

Federal investigators are still looking to hear from potential victims of the doctors involved.

Federal investigators are asking anyone with information related to this investigation to contact them at 313.226.9100.

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