A federal jury convicted a West Virginia doctor Thursday for prescribing a buprenorphine product in violation of the Controlled Substances Act.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Sriramloo Kesari, M.D., 78, of Charleston distributed the drug Suboxone outside the scope of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose. Kesari, who was at times physically located in California, operated a cash-only operation whereby he would sign prescriptions that his employee would distribute in exchange for cash payments. Although Suboxone is approved as a drug for treating opioid addiction, Kesari provided no meaningful addiction treatment and instead, prescribed Suboxone to an undercover DEA agent who was demonstrating clear signs that the Suboxone was being diverted or sold on the street.
Kesari is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 25, and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Acting U.S. Attorney Lisa G. Johnston of the Southern District of West Virginia; and Special Agent in Charge J. Todd Scott of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Louisville Field Office made the announcement.
The DEA investigated the case.
Assistant Chief Kilby Macfadden and Trial Attorneys Dermot Lynch, Andrew Barras and Maryam Adeyola of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.
The Fraud Section leads the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force. Since its inception in October 2018, the ARPO Strike Force, which operates in 10 districts, has charged more than 85 defendants who are collectively responsible for distributing more than 65 million pills. Since its inception in March 2007, the Health Care Fraud Strike Force, which maintains 15 strike forces operating in 24 districts, has charged more than 4,200 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for approximately $19 billion. In addition, the Health and Human Services (HHS) Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-Office of Inspector General, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.