Scranton Doctor Pleads Guilty To Unlawfully Prescribing Controlled Substances And Health Care Fraud

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SCRANTON – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced today that Scranton physician, Kurt Moran, age 69, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Robert D. Mariani to charges related to the unlawful distribution of controlled substances and engaging in a health care fraud scheme. 

According to United States Attorney John C. Gurganus, Moran pleaded guilty to the unlawful distribution of a controlled substance (Subsys), maintaining a drug-involved premises, and health care fraud.  For purposes of his guilty plea, Moran further agreed that he knowingly and intentionally distributed oxycodone and fentanyl, Schedule II controlled substances, outside the usual course of professional practice and not for legitimate medical purposes, and that the death of “J.B.” resulted from the use of the substances. 

With respect to the health care fraud scheme, between December 2014 and through 2017, Moran conspired with others to receive bribes in exchange for prescribing the drug Subsys (sublingual fentanyl) to his patients.  Subsys is a transmucosal immediate release fentanyl (TIRF) drug.  It is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only for use in cancer patients suffering from breakthrough cancer pain.  It is alleged that a company paid Moran approximately $140,000 over a two-year period to prescribe Subsys to his patients for pain not associated with cancer.  In order to conceal and disguise that kickbacks and bribes were being paid to Moran to prescribe Subsys, the company falsely designated the payments to Moran as “honoraria” for purportedly providing educational presentations regarding Subsys.  Moran prescribed millions of micrograms of the sublingual fentanyl spray to patients with no cancer diagnosis and not suffering from breakthrough cancer pain.   

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“Today at his guilty plea, Kurt Moran admitted that he ran his Scranton medical practice for the purpose of distributing high dosages of opioids outside the usual course of professional practice and not for legitimate medical purposes,” said United States Attorney John C. Gurganus.  “In illegally prescribing these highly addictive and dangerous drugs, he often did so without conducting a meaningful physical examination to verify the claimed illness or condition, and, at times without even seeing the patients — all while knowing that such illegal practices could result in overdoses, dependence, addiction, and, in at least one case, death. We are committed to work vigorously to combat the opioid epidemic, and a key component of that effort is to prosecute rogue doctors who betray their professional obligations.”

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Moran surrendered his DEA registration on September 18, 2020.  His license to practice medicine in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was suspended on October 7, 2020. 

As part the plea agreement entered in the case, the parties agreed to recommend that the Court impose a sentence of 144 months’ incarceration.  Moran further agreed to a forfeiture order in the amount of $134,000.

The charges stem from an investigation initiated in 2016 by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) located in Scranton, the United States Postal Service – Office of Inspector General, and the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office.  Assistant United States Attorneys Michelle Olshefski and Michael Consiglio are prosecuting the case.

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A sentence following a finding of guilty is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. 

In this case, the maximum penalty under the federal statute for the unlawful distribution of controlled substances and maintaining drug-involved premises is 20 years’ imprisonment.  The charge related to health care fraud carries a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment.  Each charge also carries a fine and a term of supervised release following any period of incarceration.  Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant’s educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.

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