A former Johnstown doctor has been detained in Panama and is expected to be returned to the United States. According to federal prosecutors, he will be transported to Pittsburgh to appear before a federal magistrate in relation to health care fraud and income tax charges. The 64-year-old doctor initially came under investigation after the Cambria Country Drug Task Force suspected him of over-prescribing narcotics in 2001, according to a criminal complaint filed on the matter in 2008.
Though he was never charged for over-prescription, the Department of Health and Human Services alleged that he had overcharged Medicare and private insurers for services he had never provided. The IRS also reported that he had misreported his income. In 2006, the doctor allegedly fled the country, taking his family to the Dominican Republic. He has been a fugitive for the past eight years. Federal prosecutors say that they will request he be held without bail until trial.
In this case, an attorney representing the doctor might be able to take advantage of the lengthy period of time between the allegations and the trial. Evidence of the doctor's supposed criminal activities may have been lost or degraded in the interlude, and the attorney might be able to successfully argue that witnesses in the case no longer had sufficiently clear memories of the relevant events to offer useful testimony.
A conviction of federal charges of health care fraud can lead to significant penalties; under these circumstances, it may be in one's best interest to seek legal counsel. A guilty verdict may result in prison time as well as heavy potential fines. A conviction on tax-related charges may also have significant legal ramifications depending on the nature of the specific charges.
Source: Beaumont Enterprise, "Johnstown doc who fled prosecution back in US", June 05, 2014