A North Alabama doctor and her husband, who also served as her practice manager, pleaded guilty Wednesday for their roles in unlawfully distributing opioids and other controlled substances while the doctor was absent from the clinic.
Elizabeth Korcz, M.D., age 47, a licensed physician, and her husband and practice manager Matthew Korcz, age 47, both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to unlawfully distribute controlled substances. As part of the plea, the defendants also agreed to forfeit $46,181.79.
The defendants owned and operated Hoover Alt MD, a purported medical clinic with an in-house dispensary. As part of their guilty pleas, the defendants admitted to providing dangerous doses of hydrocodone to patients who were not first examined by a medical professional, and at times when Dr. Korcz was absent from their clinic.
The couple did not employ registered nurses or other qualified medical professionals to examine patients, despite Dr. Korcz’s frequent absences.
According to the plea agreement, the defendants admitted to allowing hydrocodone to be dispensed from their in-house dispensary on multiple occasions when Dr. Korcz was out of state.
Austin Haskew, age 31, of Leeds, a pharmacy technician at Hoover Alt MD, pleaded guilty to unlawful distribution of a controlled substance.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona of the Northern District of Alabama, Special Agent in Charge Brad L. Byerly of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s New Orleans Field Division and Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp Jr. of the FBI’s Birmingham Field Office made the announcement.
The DEA and FBI investigated the case. Trial Attorney Devon Helfmeyer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney J.B. Ward of the Northern District of Alabama are prosecuting the case.
The Fraud Section leads the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force and the Health Care Fraud 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 Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS Office of Inspector General, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the number of fraudulent providers.
Individuals who believe that they may be a victim of this crime should visit the Fraud Section’s Victim Witness website for more information.
Alabama is one of the few states where a licensed doctor cannot be charged with the illegal distribution of narcotics. Because of this oversight in Alabama’s criminal code, pill mills have proliferated in the state. The federal government, however, is cracking down on rogue Alabama physicians who hide behind their state medical license to push opioids and other harmful drugs on the people of Alabama.
State Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, the chair of the Alabama Democratic Party, has repeatedly introduced legislation to end this loophole in Alabama law to allow state prosecutors to similarly go after Alabama doctors who act as dangerous drug pushers. The legislation has been strongly opposed by the Alabama Medical Association.
If you were a patient at Hoover Alt MD who became addicted to opioids or other narcotics or are the family of someone who died of a drug overdose after being prescribed opioids by the Korczs, you should consult with an attorney to see if you have a civil case against the Korczs and Hoover Alt MD.