PHILADELPHIA — A Garnet Valley doctor pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to five counts of unlawful distribution of controlled substances for running a “pill mill” out of his office.
Dr. Timothy F. Shawl, 60, was among 48 defendants charged in a sweeping health care fraud enforcement action across seven federal districts last year that involved more than $800 million in losses and more than 3.25 million opioid pills distributed out of “pill-mill” clinics.
He was arrested in September along with 16 other defendants in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania – five of them doctors or medical professionals allegedly involved in the distribution of approximately 738,000 oxycodone pills and submission of more than $4 million in fraudulent claims.
Shawl wrote hundreds of prescriptions for controlled substances to patients without seeing, treating, or examining them, according to federal prosecutors, and prescribed more than 29,000 oxycodone tablets to approximately 16 patients.
A release from U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain indicates Shawl admitted to writing oxycodone prescriptions that were not for a legitimate medical purpose, and which were issued without Shawl treating, examining, or even seeing the patients who received the prescriptions.
Shawl additionally admitted that he had not conducted a physical examination on one patient for at least five years, despite regularly prescribing that patient controlled substances. The patient died in January 2019, just three days after Shawl last prescribed oxycodone for her, according to federal prosecutors. The cause of death was drug intoxication.
“Today’s guilty plea from Dr. Shawl is the tangible result of the Healthcare Fraud Strike Force delivering on its mission to stop fraud, waste, and abuse within our federal health care programs and to stem the tide of illegal opioid distribution,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams. “Our Strike Force acts as a force multiplier, bringing together health care fraud prosecutors, civil enforcement attorneys, data analysts, and law enforcement agencies to do this important work. Today’s guilty plea should serve as a warning to any medical professional engaged in this type of illegal behavior.”
Another 12 people, all of Philadelphia, were also charged in the sweep with presenting forged prescriptions for oxycodone to pharmacies in Marcus Hook, Drexel Hill and Kennett Square between September 2016 and June 2019. All told, those defendants may have obtained about 75,000 oxycodone pills.
“The medical professionals and others engaging in criminal behavior by peddling opioids for profit continue to fuel our nation’s drug crisis,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski in a release announcing the charges. “The Department of Justice will continue to use every tool at our disposal, including data analytics and traditional law enforcement techniques, to investigate, prosecute, and punish this reprehensible behavior and protect federal programs from abuse.”
Sentencing is set for May 5 before U.S. District Judge Richard Barclay Surrick.