Last week, an East Tennessee doctor with ties to Anderson County and Oak Ridge was sentenced to 18 months behind bars on federal drug charges.
49-year-old Michael LaPaglia pleaded guilty to an information charging him with one count of conspiring to distribute controlled substances and one count of making a material false statement in connection with the delivery of health care benefits. An “information” is a plea entered before an indictment is handed down.
The charges stem from LaPaglia’s involvement in a mobile Suboxone clinic through which LaPaglia issued prescriptions for Suboxone, Clonazepam, diazepam, and Pregabalin in the name of another doctor.
According to a press release from the US Attorney, in spring of 2018, investigators with the FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services responded to a complaint that LaPaglia was issuing prescriptions for Suboxone without the authority to do so.
If LaPaglia’s name sounds familiar, it may be because he once worked as an ER doctor and Methodist Medical Center, and had served as the medical director for the Anderson County EMS. Additionally, he has been sued at least once for using drugs to paralyze suspects in the ER on order for cavity searches to be conducted, and was arrested in 2013 after a large amount of illegal drugs was found at his Knoxville home.
He surrendered his registration number with DEA in 2014 following his arrest on the drug charges. That registration number is required for doctors, and allows them to write prescriptions for controlled substances.
The charges LaPaglia was sentenced for last week were the result of an investigation by FBI, HHS, and the DEA as part of the Opioid Fraud and Abuse initiative, described by officials as “a comprehensive national strategy that focuses on investigations and prosecutions of medical providers who prescribe opioids outside of the course of professional medical practice and for no legitimate purpose.”