MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - A federal grand jury handed down a 113 count second superseding indictment in a Montgomery pill mill case.
Dr. Richard Stehl is charged with 106 counts of distribution of a controlled substance, one count of possession with the intent to distribute a controlled substance, two counts of health care fraud, and four counts of money laundering.
It’s one of the largest indictments against a single defendant to be filed in Alabama’s Middle District in recent memory.
Stehl was arrested at his East Montgomery medical practice in August 2018 for reportedly overprescribing opioids to patients without a medical need for the prescriptions. This marks the second superseding indictment to be filed in this case.
In August, Stehl’s attorney, Andrew Skier, filed a motion to dismiss the 26 counts in the superseding indictment due to lack of specificity, duplicitous counts, and failure to state an offense.
Prosecutors did not file a formal objection to the defense motion. Instead, three weeks later it filed the second superseding indictment addressing each count in detail.
The government lays out their case against Stehl in a 54-page indictment by listing 17 patients who reportedly received numerous prescriptions for controlled substances that were medically unnecessary. In some cases, multiple pain medications were prescribed at the same time for consecutive months or even years. Another patient was prescribed a sedative, muscle relaxer, pain medication, sleeping pill, and stimulant used to treat ADHD. This patient received nearly the same prescriptions for every visit for 10 months.
The specific dates where prescriptions were allegedly written for those 17 patients account for charges 1-106. Stehl is charged with possession with the intent to distribute testosterone for charge 107.
Charges 108 and 109 are related to health care fraud. The government alleges Stehl issued vague diagnoses for patients that were unsupported by diagnostic evidence. He reportedly used those diagnoses as reason to prescribe controlled substances that were medically unnecessary.
“Stehl did so despite knowing he was issuing many of these prescriptions outside of the ordinary course of normal professional conduct and for no legitimate purpose,” the indictment states.
In order to receive refills on those prescriptions, he required the patients to return for monthly visits, according to the indictment. During those visits, Stehl allegedly performed procedures that were also reportedly unnecessary and billed health care programs like Medicare and Blue Cross Blue Shield for at a higher medical complexity than the visit warranted in order to be reimbursed at a higher rate.
The indictment lists six patients with numerous office visits, some twice a month, that prosecutors found to be outside the scope of general medical care. On at least seven of the 48 appointments listed in the indictment, patients received three to four injections that were deemed medically unnecessary.
“Stehl routinely injected patients with vitamins, antibiotics, and other medications,” the indictment states. “Stehl did so even though, as he then knew, the patients did not need those injections.”
These routine appointments account for charge 108. Count 109 represents prescriptions that were filled and paid by health insurance. The indictment lists five patients who used their health care benefits to fill nearly 140 prescriptions combined that were written by Stehl leading up to his arrest.
The four final counts allege Stehl used his practice, HealthCare on Demand, LLC, to launder money.
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 on Winton M. Blount Loop in Montgomery. HealthCare on Demand made annual rent payments to SLE Enterprises.
“The purposes of SLE Enterprises was to be a shell corporation through 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 'sham'. The four counts of money laundering represent four annual rent checks payable to SLE Enterprises from HealthCare on Demand written in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. All were signed by Stehl.
According to the indictment, money was moved from the SLE Enterprises' bank account to an investment account owned by Stehl.
WSFA 12 News reached out to Stehl’s attorney for comment, and Andrew Skier said, “The changes made in this new indictment are largely technical in nature, and do not affect Dr. Stehl’s defense.”