Saturday, November 14, 2009

Virginia Doctor Sentenced For Writing Prescriptions Over Internet And Tax Evasion

On November 4, 2009, Dr. Torrino Jennings of Hanover County, Virginia, was sentenced in Boston federal district by Judge Richard Stearns to one year and a day in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, after pleading guilty on July 19, 2009 to seven counts of Introducing Misbranded Drugs into Interstate Commerce and four counts of Tax Evasion. The maximum sentence that could have been imposed was 5 years.

As part of the plea, the doctor admitted that he wrote prescriptions over the Internet for people whom he had never met or examined. It was alleged that the drugs -- shipments of the muscle relaxant SOMA -- were misbranded as a matter of law because they were dispensed without a valid prescription.

The factual basis for the plea agreement was that between 2004 and 2007, Dr. Jennings issued between 50,000 and 100,000 prescriptions over the Internet for SOMA and other drugs to individuals on whom he had never performed a physical examination and whom, indeed, he had never met. He did so based on brief forms completed by individuals for online pharmacies. The online pharmacies paid Dr. Jennings between $5.00 and $7.00 for each prescription he wrote based on one of these forms. It was alleged that virtually no request for drugs submitted by the online pharmacies to Dr. Jennings for endorsement was ever rejected by him.

The tax portion of the case was based on the admission that Dr. Jennings knowingly and intentionally did not report to the Internal Revenue Service hundreds of thousands of dollars he was paid by the online pharmacies for issuing the prescriptions.

This prosecution shows that certain jurisdictions such as Massachusetts which is active in prescription and health care fraud prosecutions will seek to prosecute physicians in other states. The Internet allows other states and federal agencies to have jurisdiction to prosecute. Cases like this are a shock to the physician, his family and his practice. Physicians need legal advice before working at any Internet pharmacies and it cannot be assumed that simply because an Internet pharmacy is large or multi-state that its practices will be deemed legal.

Any questions or comments should be directed to: Tracy Green is a principal at Green & Associates in Los Angeles, California. They focus their practice on the representation of licensed professionals, individuals and businesses in civil, business, administrative and criminal proceedings. They have a specialty in representing licensed health care providers. Their website is:


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