Jury convicts doctor of illegal prescriptions

03/15/2005 - Dr. Harry M. Katz, a 79-year-old Cedar Hill physician dubbed "Dr. Feelgood" by a federal prosecutor, was convicted Tuesday of 176 felonies for illegally writing prescriptions for painkillers and other controlled substances.

Officials said Katz - who worked at least 10 hours a day, seven days a week - routinely issued prescriptions with no medical purpose to patients who simply walked in and asked for them.

The jury in federal court in St. Louis convicted Katz of 170 counts of distributing controlled substances from 1999 to 2001. Jurors also found him guilty of six counts of attempted distribution, for cases in which undercover agents obtained prescriptions but did not fill them. Katz was acquitted on 16 distribution counts.

"I think that's a pretty loud voice from the jury, so we're happy with that," said Assistant U.S. Attorney John Davis.

The verdict brought relief to Sally Bacon, whose son committed suicide amid an addiction to drugs that she blames on prescriptions from Katz. "I'm ecstatic," she said outside the courthouse. "I just don't want to see any other families go through what we went through. It's a horrible thing to lose your child, and for his boys to lose their dad."

Bacon and her husband, Dallas Bacon, sat quietly in a back row through the trial. Their son, Steven Bacon, a cement finisher, shot himself Dec. 18, 2002. He had apparently gone to Katz for a back injury, Sally Bacon said. The couple has filed a wrongful death lawsuit claiming Katz "overprescribed" narcotics to their son.

U.S. Attorney Jim Martin said, "We truly believe this man is more dangerous than the streetcorner drug dealer. He's taking patients that he's supposed to help, and he's only helping them to further ruin their lives."

Neither Katz nor his attorney, Barry Short, would comment after the verdict. Katz, who is divorced, left court with two of his daughters, free on appeal bond pending sentencing June 10.

He had testified in court that, "I never prescribe addictive doses."

Prosecutors sought to seize $2 million of $2.7 million they said Katz had in online brokerage accounts and other accounts. But U.S. District Judge Donald Stohr ruled they could take only $5,640 - 141 office visits specified in the indictment times the $40 fee for each visit.

Much of the case focused on accusations that Katz did not follow medical standards for keeping records. Katz testified he evaluated patients quickly but thoroughly, and made notes when necessary.

Katz has said he slept on the floor of his office, in a mall in Cedar Hill, for 12 years, after an armed intruder had ransacked his trailer home.

The doctor did not require appointments and accepted cash and checks but not insurance. His office was open 12 hours on weekdays, 11 on Saturdays and 10 on Sundays. He admitted he might see as many as 500 patients each week.

He also said he required patients to return every two weeks to renew prescriptions.

Katz said he was raised in rural Alabama, and for a period in the 1960s and 1970s was the only full-time doctor at Louisiana State Penitentiary. In testimony, he said, "I'm just a country doctor, a convenience doctor. When my door opens, I never know who's coming through."

He was convicted on five counts of Medicare fraud in Florida in 1971. He lost his license in three other states as a result, but not in Missouri. He worked in small towns in Missouri before opening his practice in Cedar Hill in about 1982.

Prosecutors said his patients were people who wanted drugs quickly. One prosecution witness who told of getting Xanax prescriptions was Maria Teresa Taca, 28, who was indicted last fall on charges she and others operated a heroin distribution ring and laundered money.

Other witnesses told of obtaining multiple prescriptions for the painkiller Vicodin, anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax and Valium, and other drugs.

Katz was "Dr. Feelgood," Davis, the prosecutor, told the jury in closing arguments. "This doctor was nothing more than a drug doctor. He has an office instead of a street corner."

The doctor surrendered his registration to prescribe controlled substances in 2003. He faces up to five years in prison on many of the counts.

Once Katz is sentenced, state law requires the Missouri Board of the Healing Arts to revoke his license, said Tina Steinman, the board's executive director.

Doctor on Trial; A Mother Wants Him to "Go Down"

3/8/2005 - Doctor Harry Katz is facing almost 200 counts on an indictment for writing needless prescriptions from his Cedar Hill office in Jefferson County.

Katz, according to federal prosecutors, would write prescriptions, 50 thousand of them over a short period of years, in exchange for 40 dollars cash.

Katz is saying he's done nothing wrong, except try to help people who didn't have any health insurance.

In court this week Sally Bacon of Villa Ridge. She says her son, Steven, died of a self-inflicted gunshot after being addicted to pills prescribed by Doctor Katz.

Bacon says her son tried to get off the pills, but when he couldn't, he became despondent, and shot himself in the basement of his family's home.

Bacon says she blames Doctor Katz, who knew her son was abusing prescription painkillers. As proof, Bacon says that after her son died, she went through his things, and found 6 to 8 different prescriptions written by Doctor Katz...but they were in different names.

Katz isn't talking, according to his lawyer.

Tomorrow, jurors in his trial will hear from an expert witness, a doctor, who will explain that a doctor, when writing prescriptions, must examine his patients. In the trial so far, a lot of the testimony has been from former patients, who lied to Doctor Katz about their ailments.

Instead of examinations, Katz would produce prescriptions.

Doctor's [Daniel Katz] Medical License Suspended

12/15/2004 - The medical license of Dr. Daniel Katz has been suspended amid an investigation into an allegation that he prescribed large quantities of medication to himself, among others, according to state medical authorities.

The order issued by the Composite State Board of Medical Examiners said it received a complaint that Katz was "prescribing large quantities of controlled substances for himself, family members and another physician, Dr. K."

Katz, who has pain management clinics on Earl Street in Clayton and in Demorest, told the board's agent "he takes 3-10 narcotic pills each day for 'restless legs'," the order said. The admission came during a Nov. 18 interview at his office.

The order also said, "Respondent appeared to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the aforementioned interview, and asked if the Respondent had taken any of his prescription medicine that day, to which he replied 'not yet'."

The order suspending Katz' medical license took effect Nov. 30. Both clinics have remained closed since. "All appointments have been canceled. Our office is temporarily closed," says a woman's voice on the clinic's outgoing message.

"My license has been temporarily suspended because someone made a complaint that I'm impaired by drugs," Katz said on Monday.

After the order was issued, Katz said he went to the Talbot Recovery Campus in Atlanta and underwent a five-day evaluation.

"The order says I'm impaired, the experts say I'm not," he said.

Katz also said any use of medication was for a legitimate reason. "I was taking prescription medication as prescribed by my doctor for a real ailment," he said.

Katz said he had hired a lawyer and expected to get his license returned. He likened the complaint lodged against him to the revocation of his emergency room privileges at Rabun County Memorial Hospital in 1999.

"We found out the complaints were wrong," he said. "I sued and I won. We don't know if the same people are involved, but it smells like the same kind of tactic."

Katz said he asked for an expedited hearing the day he was served with the order. He has been practicing medicine in Rabun County for 6 1/2 years. In May 2002, he was awarded $101,400 in damages from the Rabun County Hospital Authority related to the termination of privileges.

Bob Jeffery, director of operations for the state board, said the summary suspension would remain in force until the hearing. A date for the hearing has not been set.

"A summary suspension is basically taken as an emergency measure," Jeffery said.

The board, which is composed of 12 physicians and one consumer advocate, has a litany of restrictions ranging from revocation of a license to reinstatement. A license stays in effect for two years, and renewal is normally routine.

The identity of anyone making a complaint is protected by state law. "The doctor is presumed innocent, and we proceed from there," Jeffery said.

Likewise, Jeffery said he couldn't confirm whether another doctor was under investigation based on the allegation in Katz's order that another physician was involved.

"That is information that would be protected," he said. "I can't say yes or no to the question."

According to the order, the board's agent asked to see Katz's pills and "was shown a small metal tin the size of a matchbook which contained approximately 20 oxycodone pills and one large gray pill that (Katz) said was a vitamin."

The order also claimed Katz had "difficulty remembering details of the interview, such as his receipt of the subpoena for records of several patients that were discussed with him a few minutes prior to leaving his office."

Besides suing the hospital, Katz also sued Drs. Kathy Easterling and Karen Austin and former nursing director Martha Kay Langston over the revocation of emergency room privileges. A Habersham County jury ruled he was not entitled to damages from the individual defendants. Katz later appealed the decision. He said Monday that he didn't know if a ruling had been issued on the appeal.

Federal prosecutors want doctor to forfeit $2 million

By Peter Shinkle

Prosecutors are seeking to seize $2 million from an elderly physician in Jefferson County who was arrested Friday on federal charges that he got the money by writing 50,000 illegal prescriptions for 2.5 million doses of controlled drugs.

Dr. Harry Meyer Katz, 78, who practices in Cedar Hill, is charged in 14 counts with causing the illegal dispensation of prescription drugs, including diazapam, commonly called Valium, and alprazolam, commonly called Xanax.

His attorney, Vernon Dawdy, rejected the charges and said Katz will plead not guilty. "It's not the facts, and I don't think they can prove that," Dawdy said.

Prosecutors said the maximum penalty on conviction would be three to five years in prison, with a $250,000 fine on each count.

In a separate inquiry, the Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission reported last year that Katz, who was convicted of five counts of Medicare fraud in Florida in 1971, routinely saw up to 500 patients per week. It also alleged that he overprescribed painkillers to several patients whom he did not evaluate properly, and was repeatedly negligent.

After Katz prescribed a painkiller nine times to one patient, called "PH," the patient's mother complained that "PH" had no medical condition and was abusing the drug, the commission said. But in 1998 and 1999, Katz issued 10 prescriptions for the anti-anxiety drug Xanax to the same patient under an assumed name, it said.

The commission reported that Katz lived in his office - which was so small that it had no room for an examination table - and received patients there for 12 hours a day on Mondays through Saturdays, and 10 hours on Sundays.

It also reported that Katz lost his license in three other states as a result of his criminal conviction but that Missouri renewed his license in 1973.

A separate body, the state Board of Registration for the Healing Arts, which is responsible for disciplining doctors, concluded last year that it could not take action against Katz for some of the violations because they were "too remote in time."

The board let him retain his license to practice medicine but placed him on probation for five years, barring him from prescribing controlled substances during that period. Katz appealed. A Jefferson County judge upheld the discipline, but Katz has taken the case to the Missouri Court of Appeals, where it is pending.

He was arrested at about 9 a.m. Friday in his office, said his attorney, Dawdy. The indictment was returned June 9, after an investigation by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, but suppressed pending the doctor's arrest. He was released later Friday on an unsecured bond.

In denying the allegations, Dawdy said that the Board of Registration had allowed Katz to remain licensed to practice medicine. "The medical board had a problem with this record-keeping basically," Dawdy said.

The indictment, filed in U.S. District Court in St. Louis, alleges that Katz wrote bogus prescriptions for the drugs in exchange for a payment of $40 per individual. The prescriptions were for "no legitimate medical purpose," it alleges.

According to the indictment, from June 1, 1999, to the present, Katz wrote 50,000 prescriptions and received about $2 million.

Online brokerage accounts

As proceeds of criminal conduct, the money is subject to forfeiture, the indictment states. It says Katz has about $2.2 million in two online stock brokerage accounts, and $400,000 more in mutual funds.

U.S. Attorney Jim Martin said his office and the Drug Enforcement Administration will "aggressively" prosecute any doctor who illegally prescribes controlled substances.

"The illegal distribution of prescription drugs can be just as dangerous as the sale of street drugs," he said.

At the request of prosecutors, U.S. District Judge Donald Stohr issued an order blocking Katz from moving the $2 million. Assistant U.S. attorney John Davis said prosecutors sought the order to "prevent the proceeds from that criminal activity from being dissipated somehow."

The indictment charges Katz with 14 specific acts of causing the dispensing of a controlled substance for no legitimate medical purpose, ranging in time from Aug. 22, 2000, to Jan. 26, 2001.

Katz's solo medical practice is in his office at 6775 Mall Drive in Cedar Hill. Dawdy denied the claim that Katz lived in the office and said the doctor has a home near Cedar Hill. A press release from the U.S. attorney's office said Katz has a home in Dittmer.

Dawdy said the it would be possible to issue 50,000 legitimate prescriptions over the past five years. Katz can see from nine to 27 patients as day, and some of those might get multiple prescriptions, the defense lawyer said.

"He doesn't do any surgery, which might consume time," Dawdy said. "He's a family practitioner, and he sees people in his office."

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