EAST ST. LOUIS — A former Alton physician who operated a walk-in clinic will be sentenced April 3 after pleading guilty last week to 15 counts of healthcare fraud and illegal distribution of two controlled substances.
Viwathna Bhuthimethee, 68, of Alton and a native of Thailand, pleaded guilty Feb. 14 in federal court in East St. Louis to the 15 counts of an indictment. The internist operated the Walk In Clinic, 654 East Broadway.
He formerly lived in Glen Carbon.
Bhuthimethee’s sentencing is set for 10:00 a.m. in the Federal courthouse in East St. Louis.
The indictment against Bhuthimethee charged healthcare fraud against the Illinois Medicaid program, and illegal distribution of Schedule III controlled substances (Hydrocodone) and Schedule IV controlled substances (Xanax). It says Bhuthimethee prescribed the drugs outside the usual course of professional conduct and without legitimate medical purpose, said Stephen R. Wigginton, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois.
Some mornings the clinic clients would be lined up outside the facility, with some people waiting partially up Ridge Street hill, until its doors opened.
According to a U.S. Attorney’s press release, healthcare fraud carries penalties of a maximum of 10 years in prison, maximum fine of $250,000, maximum three years supervised release following prison and $100 special assessment.
Also, illegal distribution of a Schedule III controlled substance (Hydrocodone) carries penalties of a maximum of 10 years in prison, maximum fine of $500,000, no less than two years of supervised release and $100 special assessment.
Finally, illegal distribution of a Schedule IV controlled substance (Xanax) carries penalties of a maximum of five years in prison, maximum fine of $250,000, one year supervised release and $100 special assessment.
According to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation website (http://www.idfpr.com/licenselookup/results.asp), the state suspended his physician and physician/controlled substance licenses on Oct. 11, 2012. It gives as a reason: “Violation of federal requirements for record-keeping and dispensing of controlled substances in private practice.”
The website says Bhuthimethee obtained his Illinois physician’s license on Dec. 16, 1977.
Alton Police Department, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Illinois State Police, Medicaid Fraud Control Bureau and the Madison County Coroner’s Office all participated in the investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Quinley and Special Assistant United States Attorney Stuart Zander are prosecuting the case.
Authorities ask that anyone suspecting or knowing of an individual or company not complying with healthcare laws or public aid programs, should report this activity to the local office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General or by calling 1 (800) 447-8477.