A Clearwater pain doctor with a controversial past of prescribing narcotics pleaded guilty to Medicare fraud in federal court Tuesday and agreed to give up her license to practice medicine.
Dr. Jayam Krishna Iyer admitted to criminal wrongdoing in court but refused to comment on her felonious behavior to 8 On Your Side on her way into court or while leaving after the hearing.
The case was investigated by the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, a pilot program formed by Attorney General Jeff Session “to help combat the devastating opioid crisis that is raving families and communities across America,” according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office released after Tuesday’s hearing.
The FBI, Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, DEA and the Florida Attorney General Medicare Fraud Control Unit were all involve din the investigation.
State records show Dr. Iyer agreed to forfeit her medical licenses nine days ago after an unrelated investigation of overmedicating patients and illegal prescriptions launched six years ago by the Florida Department of Health.
Monday, Dr. Iyer arranged an on-camera interview with 8 On Your Side to discuss the case at her Clearwater practice, but the door was locked and she refused to meet with us when we arrived for the interview 45 minutes later. Her staff at the Creative Health Center said she was suddenly unavailable.
Law enforcement agencies including the FBI, Justice Department, Health and Human Services and the Pinellas Sheriff’s Office narcotics bureau have been investigating allegations of illegal pain prescriptions and Medicare fraud against Iyer periodically since 1999. In one way or another, she has avoided a criminal conviction until now.
On Aug. 31, Dr. Iyer signed an agreement with federal prosecutors in Tampa admitting guilt to one felony count of Medicare fraud that will cost her at least $51,000 in restitution in addition to giving up her medical career. She also faces a possible fine of up to $250,000 and as much as 10 years in prison.
Iyer did not express any remorse before, during or after the hearing, but in court freely admitted to stealing from taxpayers through Medicare fraud for a period of at least six years in her practice at the Creative Heath Center located at 1210 Druid Road in Clearwater.
According to court records, Federal agents caught Iyer dispensing powerful Schedule II narcotics such as oxycodone to patients between July 2011 and Dec. 2017. Investigators alleged those patients didn’t step foot into her offices but she later charged Medicare for their physical exams as well as illegally prescribed narcotics.
Relatives of patients would pick up paper prescriptions on the patients’ behalf which federal prosecutors say is also a violation of Florida law regulating prescription painkillers that require in-person patient visits.
After a public records request, the Pinellas Medical Examiner sent 8 On Your Side an eight-page list of drugs prescribed by Iyer , including fentanyl, morphine, oxycodone and dilaudid, that turned up in various Medical Examiner investigations of suspicious deaths.
None of those ME cases resulted in a criminal prosecution of Iyer. She has also faced six malpractice lawsuits filed in Pinellas civil court according to court records.
After freely admitting guilt to a federal magistrate in open court Tuesday, Iyer agreed to surrender her passport and post a $50,000 signature bond pending her sentencing at a later date.
The physician who earned her medical degree in India said she is a U.S. citizen so she does not face a threat of deportation for her felony conviction.
8 On Your Side witnessed pain patients showing up at Iyer’s practice as recently as Monday, but Iyers’ attorney Dale Sisco insists she has already closed her practice.
The federal magistrate banned Iyer from any work in the health care profession in addition to surrendering her physician’s license. Part of her practice involves Botox injections and facial rejuvenation.
The magistrate agreed to allow Iyer to travel to Boston on a “family matter” at the end of the month but otherwise restricted her to the Middle District of Florida pending the physicians’ upcoming sentencing on the felony conviction following another hearing.