MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A superseding indictment handed down in March charges Dr. Richard Stehl with 26 counts, including 11 counts of distribution of a controlled substance, 11 counts of health care fraud and four counts of money laundering.
Stehl is accused of prescribing scheduled medication, including opioids and amphetamines, to patients with no medical need and forcing them to return monthly for refills to profit off insurance reimbursements.
The indictment also accuses Stehl of forming a shell company to launder money from his practice.
The indictment lists nearly a dozen patients who were treated by Stehl, some for nearly 10 years, who were receiving illegitimate prescriptions for controlled substances for opioids, sedatives, amphetamines and weight loss drugs.
One patient who was under Stehl’s care for at least eight years was being prescribed hydrocodone, butalbital, codeine with acetaminophen, carisoprodol, clonazepam, diazepam, tramadol and zolpidem.
The indictment accuses Stehl of using vague diagnoses which were unsupported by diagnostic evidence as an avenue to prescribe scheduled drugs outside the course of general medical care.
The government argues Stehl defrauded Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama and Medicare by forcing those patients to return monthly to receive another 30-day supply of scheduled drugs and filing for insurance reimbursements for complex office visits, which reimburse at a higher rate. The indictment states the sole purpose of the office visits were for ‘perpetuating the illegitimate prescribing of controlled substances’.
“These monthly office visits were medically unnecessary,” the indictment cited. “As no legitimate medical reasons existed for the patients’ receipt of controlled substances, no legitimate medical reasons existed for the patients undergoing monthly medical office visits.”
The indictment goes on to say the health care fraud continued as the patients filled their illegitimate prescriptions, which were also covered by insurance.
In 2010, Stehl formed a business through the Alabama Secretary of State’s office named SLE Enterprises, LLC. Stehl used this business to purchase the property for his office. HealthCare on Demand made annual rent payments to SLE Enterprises.
"The purposes of SLE Enterprises was to be a shell corporation though which Stehl could disguise the nature, source, ownership, and control of revenue Stehl generated by unlawfully prescribing and dispensing controlled substances and by committing health care fraud", the indictment cites.
In 2012, Stehl transferred ownership of SLE Enterprises to a relative, something the government called a scam. The four counts of money laundering represent four annual rent checks payable to SLE Enterprises from HealthCare in Demand written in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. All were signed by Stehl.
"The purpose of the transfer was further disguise the nature, source, ownership, and control of the funds held by SLE Enterprises."
Stehl was arrested at his office in August 2018 and charged with distribution of a controlled substance. Federal agents served search warrants at both his office and home. At the time of his arrest, Stehl was one of the top opioid prescribers in the state.
Weeks later, Stehl was indicted on additional counts.
Stehl’s attorney Andrew Skier released the following statement on the charges:
“We have known for some time that the Government would seek to present additional charges to a Grand Jury. This new indictment changes nothing from our standpoint. Dr. Stehl cared for his patients in an appropriate and medically responsible way, and Dr. Stehl looks forward to the trial of this case when the charges against him will be put to the test.”
Stehl is currently out on bond but will be arraigned on the new charges in the coming weeks.