Livonia doctor sentenced to more than 11 years for conspiring to illegally distribute drugs

Dr. Zongli Chang received payments to write prescriptions


LIVONIA, Mich. – A Livonia doctor will spend more than 11 years in prison for conspiring with patient recruiters to illegally distribute prescription drugs.

According to the United States Attorney’s Office, Dr. Zongli Chang admitted that, between about January 2012 and May 2017, patient recruiters brought fake patients to his office and he wrote  unnecessary prescriptions for them in exchange for cash. 

Chang wrote prescriptions for drugs such as hydrocodone-acetaminophen, oxycodone HCl, alprazolam, carisoprodol and promethazine/codeine syrup. He said he was usually paid $150, but sometimes received up to $400 for opioid scripts.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, the recruiters would take the fake patients to a pharmacy, fill the prescriptions and then take the drugs to distribute. The drugs had a street value of more than $18,000.

Read more about the case from the U.S. Attorney's Office:

"Since the charges in this case were unsealed in January, 2018, six of the seven patient recruiters have also pleaded guilty to engaging in this conspiracy.

"In addition to serving a 135-month sentence, United States District Court Judge Sean Cox ordered Chang to pay a $1 million criminal fine. Chang also agreed to the entry of a $3 million forfeiture judgment, satisfied in large part by assets seized near the time of his arrest.

"U.S. Attorney Schneider noted that “this sentence sends a strong message to every other physician that deliberately writes unnecessary opioid prescriptions, knowing full well that the drugs will ultimately be sold on the streets, that they will be treated no differently than any other major drug dealer. A medical license will not shield them from criminal consequences.”

“We entrust physicians to care for their patients in a manner that is consistent with their oath to do no harm,” said FBI SAC Slater. “Prescribing opioids with the knowledge that the drugs would ultimately be distributed illegally contributes to the ongoing opioid addiction crisis and cannot be tolerated. The FBI and our federal partners remain committed to identifying and disrupting physicians who engage in this type of drug diversion scheme.”

"The Eastern District of Michigan is one of the twelve districts included in the Opioid Fraud Abuse and Detection Unit, a Department of Justice initiative created by Attorney General Sessions, that uses data to target and prosecute individuals that are contributing to the nation’s opioid crisis. Dr. Chang’s suspicious patterns of prescriptions were detectable from data analysis by the Opioid Fraud Abuse and Detection Unit.

"The case was investigated by Special Agents of the FBI and HHS and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brant Cook, John Engstrom and Paul Kuebler."

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