Wanted Cambria County physician nabbed in Panama
A Cambria County physician who fled the country when he was indicted on charges of health care fraud was arrested this week in Panama, according to federal court records.
Dr. William R. Acosta, a native of the Dominican Republic, originally agreed to plead guilty to health care fraud and tax charges, according to an indictment unsealed on Friday in U.S. District Court in Johnstown.
On April 3, 2006, Acosta's attorney notified the U.S. Attorney's Office that his client was willing to plead guilty. But Acosta had departed from Florida for the Dominican Republic the previous day, according to federal records.
The Department of Human Services began investigating the Johnstown neurologist in 2001 after receiving reports that Acosta was prescribing an unusually high number of narcotics to patients without conducting required physical examinations.
Acosta studied medicine in the Dominican Republic and has family there, according to court records. He was arrested on Thursday in Panama, according to a motion to unseal the indictment.
Detective Kevin Price of the Cambria County Drug Task Force singled out Acosta in testimony last year as one of the reasons behind drug addictions in the county, which many times begin with abuse of prescription medications.
Last week, Attorney General Kathleen Kane said the heroin problem in Cambria County “was out of control,” and she was dispatching undercover agents from other regions to aid local police. Law enforcement authorities have linked the use of painkillers to the increase in heroin addiction and drug overdose deaths in Pennsylvania.
An undercover agent began a series of appointments with Acosta by complaining of migraine headaches, but medical records of those visits were falsified, federal investigators allege.
“A review of billings indicated ... that Dr. Acosta was billing for a high level of service when patients described a lower-level service,” read an affidavit by Agent Connie Murray of the Office of the Inspector General.
Murray was diagnosed with tension headaches. Acosta claimed she underwent detailed exams, but she did not, the affidavit alleges.
In 2003, Murray wore a hidden recording device during an examination. Acosta's records reflect he asked Murray whether she had a drug problem before issuing a prescription, but Acosta never asked the question on the tape recording, investigators allege.
The U.S. Attorney's Office last week indicted Johnstown physician Glenn Davis, 61, who is accused of fraudulently prescribing large amounts of prescription painkillers.
Earlier this month, a dozen people in Cambria and Somerset counties suffered nonfatal overdoses that were linked to a brand of heroin known as “Seven of Hearts” and laced with drugs used to treat malaria and epilepsy, investigators said.
Aaron Wade Walters, 24, of Johnstown was arrested on drug charges when two brothers were found unconscious after injecting the “Seven of Hearts” heroin, police said.
Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or email@example.com
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Upper St. Clair family’s efforts pay off as governor signs Down syndrome education bill
- Mother, maternal grandparents charged in abuse of Mercer County boy
- Philly Nazi suspect dies as extradition request OK’d
- More than 500 migrant kids sent to Pennsylvania
- Mom, daughter die from injuries in food truck blast
- Rock injuries prove motorists’ vulnerabilities