Detroit, Michigan - The owner of a Detroit-area pain clinic and physical therapy clinic pleaded guilty last week for her role in a drug diversion scheme.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Special Agent in Charge Timothy J. Plancon of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)’s Detroit Division and Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Chicago Regional Office made the announcement.

Shirley Douglas, 70, of West Bloomfield, Michigan, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances before U.S. District Judge David Lawson of the Eastern District of Michigan.  Sentencing has been scheduled for Dec. 19, 2019, before Judge Lawson.   

As part of her guilty plea, Douglas admitted that, as the owner and operator of Abyssinia Love Knot Physical Therapy L.L.C., which was purportedly a pain clinic and a physical therapy clinic, she conspired with her co-conspirators to employ physicians who would write medically unnecessary prescriptions for controlled substances, such as oxycodone, oxymorphone and other controlled substances. Douglas facilitated patient visits with doctors, and accepted payment from patients and patient recruiters/marketers in exchange for physician visits at which she knew that prescriptions for medically unnecessary controlled substances would be provided.  Medicare beneficiaries were also required to sign physical therapy documents as a condition to receive prescriptions for controlled substances, regardless of medical necessity. 

The total drug amount attributable to Douglas is in excess of 500,000 oxycodone pills, she admitted.

This case was investigated by the DEA and HHS-OIG.  Trial Attorney Patrick Suter and Assistant Chief Malisa Dubal of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.  The case was previously prosecuted by Assistant Chief Drew Bradylyons and Trial Attorney Thomas Tynan.

The Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which is part of a joint initiative between the Department of Justice and HHS to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country.  Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which maintains 15 strike forces operating in 24 districts, has charged nearly 4,000 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $14 billion.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.