Thursday, July 31, 2008

Unlicensed Physician Charged with Fraud

Wrote Fraud Prescriptions for 12,000 Pills

by Conor Greene

A Ridgewood physician whose license to practice medicine was revoked nearly six years ago has been accused of selling prescriptions for highly addictive medications.

Chaggrit Sawangkao, 69, of 1819 Putnam Avenue was held ordered on $15,000 bail during his first appearance in Queens Criminal Court last week. He is being charged with a 23-count complaint that includes charges of criminal possession of a prescription and unauthorized practice of medicine. He is due back in court on August 14 and faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.

According to the charges, Sawangkao used an old prescription pad twice in May and June to write a total of ten prescriptions for the generic form of the medication Vicodin-ES, which he then sold for $250 to undercover investigators working with the state Department of Health’s Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement and the Queens District Attorney’s Office.

An investigation into Sawangkao’s alleged activities later revealed that the disgraced doctor had written about 80 prescriptions which were filled at least ten pharmacies in New York State and Pennsylvania, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. The fraudulent prescriptions allowed individuals to receive an estimated 12,000 narcotic pills, said Brown.

“Despite having had his medical license revoked in January 2003 for defrauding patients, insurance companies and the government, the defendant has been charged with flagrantly disregarding the law by continuing to practice medicine and allowing individuals to obtain powerful drugs for cash – without consideration for the health of the buyer or the medical
necessity of the drugs,” said Brown.

Sawangkao has been charged with ten counts of second-degree criminal possession of a prescription, one count of second-degree criminal diversion of prescription medicine, one count of unauthorized practice of a profession, ten counts of first-degree falsifying business records and one count of first-degree scheme to defraud.

The criminal charges are just the latest problem for Sawangkao, whose license to practice medicine was revoked by the state Department of Health because he cheated a 93-year-old patient out of several thousands dollars and made false statements to the Office of Medical Conduct.

According to the state’s 2003 decision, Sawangkao had an elderly patient give him a blank check, which he used to visit restaurants and go on vacations, and later a state investigator that was a board certified surgeon affiliated with Wyckoff Medical Center. The committee determined that Sawangkao is “a predator and a liar” who “saw a chance to trick an elderly ailing widow into giving him lots of money.”

“In his appearance before the committee, the respondent continue to lie about the facts even though contradictory evidence was well-documented by bank checks and original medical records,” the state’s decision notes. “Dr. Sawangkao never admitted error or claimed repentance. There was no evidence of contrition or insight that his behavior might be wrong.

“Fraud and cheating should never be tolerated or protected. We have no way of knowing if [Sawangkao] has cheated other patients in the past or whether he’ll do it again in the future. Revocation is the only possible way to sufficiently protect the public interest.” As a result of the finding, Sawangkao was forced to surrender his license to practice medicine and pay a civil penalty of $30,000.

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