SCRANTON—The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Fuhai Li, age 54, of Milford, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to 330 months’ imprisonment followed by six years supervised release on April 3, 2019, by United States District Court Judge A. Richard Caputo for unlawfully prescribing oxycodone and other opioids to 23 former patients, including a Honesdale woman who died as a result of using the pills.
According to United States Attorney David J. Freed, Li was convicted by a jury on June 5, 2018 for drug distribution resulting in death, money laundering and tax evasion. Li unlawfully prescribed oxycodone to a pregnant woman outside the usual course of medical practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose. That woman gave birth to an opioid-dependent baby 11 days after Li prescribed her 120 oxycodone 30 milligram tablets. A neo-natal specialist testified that the baby spent ten days in intensive care withdrawing from the oxycodone prescribed to his mother by Li.
During the five-week trial before Senior U.S. District Court Judge A. Richard Caputo, prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office presented the testimony of 19 former patients and three former employees of Li, eight pharmacists, three other physicians, an expert on pain management, the medical records for 39 former patients of Li, and the testimony of federal law enforcement agents and investigators from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and its Diversion Division, and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) special agents.
Li owned and operated the Neurology and Pain Management Center in Milford, Pike County, Pennsylvania. Li was a physician licensed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and authorized to prescribe Schedule II controlled substances for legitimate medical purposes and in the usual course of professional practice.
Li repeatedly prescribed oxycodone and other opioids outside the usual course of medical practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose.
Former patients testified that Li repeatedly prescribed them high doses of oxycodone and other opioids every month over several years without performing medical examinations and without verifying their prior medical treatment.
Evidence was presented that Li repeatedly falsified patient medical records and made material omissions in those records in an effort to legitimize the unlawful prescriptions.
Prosecutors presented evidence that between August 2011 and January 2015, Li wrote 26,985 prescriptions for Schedule II controlled substances, 99.37% of which were written for opioids. This included 18,115 prescriptions for oxycodone, of which 12,129 were written for oxycodone 30 milligrams, the highest dosage available in short acting oxycodone. Other opioids frequently prescribed by Li included methadone, OxyContin, hydrocodone and hydromorphone.
Former patients testified that they became dependent and addicted to opioids as a result of Li’s prescriptions. Evidence also established that Li prescribed high dose opioids to patients who he knew had recently completed drug rehabilitation and detoxification programs, resulting in those patients becoming addicted again to opioid pain medication.
Several former patients testified that they earned money by selling drugs prescribed for them by Li and used part of the money to buy heroin to support their own addiction. Some of those former patients also subsequently sold heroin on the streets of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
One former female patient testified that she had sex with Li on almost every visit to his office during a four-year time period. Li prescribed that patient high doses of various opioids for approximately four years. Two additional former female patients testified to inappropriate sexual conduct by Li during office visits.
The jury also convicted Li of using two medical offices for the purpose of unlawfully prescribing opioids. Li’s first medical office was located at 104 Bennett Avenue in Milford, and the second office was located at 200 3rd Street in Milford.
DEA agents and investigators executed search warrants at Li’s Milford office and his residences in Milford and East Stroudsburg on January 29, 2015. Agents seized electronic medical records from Li’s office, and seized more than $1 million in cash, which was hidden under beds and in closets in his residences. Evidence at trial showed that many of Li’s patients paid cash for visits, drug screens, office tests, and injections.
The money laundering convictions related to Li’s use of criminal proceeds to pay off the mortgage on his East Stroudsburg residence on November 19, 2012, and to purchase his 200 3rd Street, Milford office on August 29, 2013. Li had $385,572.05 wired from a bank account funded in part by criminal proceeds to pay off the mortgage on the East Stroudsburg residence. He subsequently withdrew $158,699.30 from a bank account funded in part by criminal proceeds to purchase the Milford office.
Li was also convicted of tax evasion for the tax years 2011, 2012, and 2013. An IRS agent testified that Li underreported his taxable income for those years by more than $800,000.
The jury’s verdict also included the forfeiture to the United States of $1,030,960 in cash that was seized from Li’s two residences; $1,036,079.36 seized from various bank accounts; real property located at 200 3rd Street, Milford (Li’s medical office); and real property located at 4005 Milford Landing Drive, Milford. Judge Caputo signed a Preliminary Order of Forfeiture for these identified assets at the sentencing.
The four-year long investigation in this case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and its Diversion Division, the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division, and the Pike County District Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michelle Olshefski, Francis P. Sempa and Evan Gotlob prosecuted the case.
This case was prosecuted as part of a district wide initiative to combat the nationwide epidemic regarding the use and distribution of heroin and other opioids. Led by the United States Attorney’s Office, the Heroin Initiative targets heroin and opioid traffickers operating in the Middle District of Pennsylvania and is part of a coordinated effort among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who commit opioid trafficking offenses.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.