Pubdate: Mon, 22 Sep 2003
Source: Florence Morning News, The (SC)
Copyright: 2003 Media General, Inc.
Author: Traci Bridges
Bookmark: (Oxycontin/Oxycodone)


FLORENCE -- The former owner of a Myrtle Beach pain clinic was sentenced to
15 years in federal prison Monday for his leading role in what authorities
have called one of the largest illegal OxyContin distribution rings in state

David Michael Woodward, 45, pleaded guilty in January to conspiracy to
possess with intent to distribute Schedule II controlled substances
(Oxycodone), conspiracy to launder money and health care fraud. He was
sentenced Monday by U.S. Judge Weston Houck during a hearing at the McMillan
Federal Building in Florence.

Woodward, the former owner of Comprehensive Care and Pain Management Centers
in Myrtle Beach, faced a much longer time in prison for his crimes but was
granted a lesser sentence in exchange for his cooperation in the
government's investigation of the clinic's practices.

"The sentence was reduced on our motion, because he cooperated with our
investigation," said Assistant U.S. Attorney William E. Day II, who handled
the expansive prosecution of the case with the assistance of Assistant U.S.
Attorney Debbie Barbier.

"That's the way the system works, but I think 15 years is still a
substantial amount of time," she said.

In addition to jail time, Woodward will have to pay $704,510 in restitution
to Medicare, Medicaid, BlueCross/BlueShield and TriCare. As part of his plea
agreement, Woodward also agreed to voluntarily surrender $640,288 in
proceeds from the sale of the clinic, an additional $2,680 transferred to
the government pursuant to a December 2002 consent order, $400 in cash
recovered from the clinic during a June 2000 search and numerous guns and
ammunition recovered during the same search.

Woodward, along with six other doctors formerly employed by Comprehensive
Care and a non-physician employee of the center, were charged last year in a
93-count indictment alleging various crimes ranging from illegal drug
distribution to health care fraud.

All of those charged have since pleaded guilty or been convicted by a jury
of charges connected to the clinic's illegal distribution of the powerful
painkiller, OxyContin, and other controlled substances.

Dr. Venkata Pulivarthi and the clinic's former office manager, Windy Suggs,
also opted to plead guilty to lesser charges earlier this year and were
sentenced Monday. Suggs was sentenced to two years in prison. Pulivarthi,
who only worked at the pain center for about a month before the government's
raid, was sentenced to three years probation.

Evidence gathered during the extensive investigation indicates that between
1997 and 2001, Woodward and the other doctors charged in the indictment
unlawfully distributed and dispensed at least three kilograms of Oxycodone
when it was not medically necessary.

During that time, Woodward also received more than $600,000 from health
groups such as Medicare, Medicaid and other health care plans for nerve
conductor tests and other procedures that were not medically necessary. If
patients questioned or refused the unnecessary tests, Woodward and the other
physicians threatened to withhold their narcotics prescriptions. In certain
cases, tests were altered so fraudulent claims could be submitted to health
care plans such as Medicaid.

The case was investigated by agents of the Drug Enforcement
Administration-Diversion Division, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services.

Five other physicians charged in the indictment, Michael Jackson, 55;
Deborah Bordeaux, 50; Ricardo Alerre, 72; Thomas P. Devlin, 60; and Deborah
Sutherland, 52, have yet to be sentenced.
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