Judge Sentences Dr. Oliver Herndon to 11 Years in Prison for Violating Drug Laws
Herndon pleaded guilty to health care fraud and illegally prescribing narcotics.
A Peters Township doctor—who prescribed so many drugs that nearly 90 pharmacies refused to fill his scrips—was sentenced Monday to more than 11 years in prison for violating federal narcotics laws and health care fraud.
Oliver W. Herndon was sentenced in federal court to 135 months imprisonment—or 11 years and 3 months—which is to be followed by three years of supervised release on his convictions for violating the federal narcotics laws and health care fraud, U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton announced Monday.
"We continue to make addressing the problem of prescription drug abuse one of our highest priorities by targeting the illegal supply chain at every level, from legitimate medical providers to illegal traffickers," Hickton said.
"Western Pennsylvania law enforcement is committed to identifying, investigating and vigorously prosecuting these criminals who prey upon the addicted and threaten the safety of our communities."
Herndon appeared in federal district court before Schwab in May, when his attorney Roger Cox, and Drug Enforcement Administration representatives—including assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Kaufman—were present to relay the summary of offenses.
Herndon, a 1996 graduate of Stanford University School of Medicine, and the parties reached a plea agreement.
Schwab said the maximum sentence could be up to 30 years in prison, a $1 million fine and mandatory restitution payments. The agreement reads that he’d have to acknowledge his responsibility to the remaining counts, provide his income, assets and financial statements, and that he would pay the $200 special assessment fee.
However, Kaufman suggested the sentence of 135 months, or just more than 11 years.
At that hearing, Kaufman summarized events observed by the DEA in the last year, including undercover detectives who were prescribed high doses of narcotics by Herndon.
He had said Herndon prescribed 10,800 tablets of 30 mg oxycodone and 3,600 tablets of 30 mg oxymorphone, resulting in a cost to insurance companies of between $400,000 and $1 million.
Out of 128 pharmacies in western Pennsylvania, 87 refused to fill his prescriptions and one in Troy Hill had a sign in its window stating it would not fill prescriptions prescribed by Herndon.
Kaufman said Herndon's waiting rooms were always full—he saw 80 to 120 patients on average daily.
According to Kaufman, many of Herndon’s patients were in their 20s and 30s, and generally seemed “strung out or stoned.”
A Pittsburgh detective, who went undercover as a patient, paid $200 in cash for an appointment with Herndon in November 2011, Kaufman said.
Her appointment, which was audio recorded, lasted three minutes and 10 seconds, and no physical exams were given or tests ordered.
Herndon said to her, “As long as you’re cool as a cucumber, you can get your meds from me.”