Crime & Courts

Feds say NC doc bartered with female patients: Have sex with me, and I'll get you drugs.

New federal documents say a Mt. Holly doctor, Michael Alson Smith, bartered drugs for sex with his female patients, then billed taxpayers for his office trysts.
New federal documents say a Mt. Holly doctor, Michael Alson Smith, bartered drugs for sex with his female patients, then billed taxpayers for his office trysts.

A Gastonia physician traded powerful prescription drugs for sex with female patients then billed taxpayers for his office trysts, new federal documents say.

In their filings, prosecutors say Dr. Michael Alson Smith bartered sex last year with at least seven of his patients at Mt. Holly Family Practice for whom he then prescribed heavily controlled drugs.

Smith regularly billed Medicaid and Medicare for reimbursement for patient visits in which sex — but no medical treatment — took place, prosecutors say. The patients who received Smith's fraudulent prescriptions likewise submitted government claims to cover the costs of their drugs.

Smith has agreed to plead guilty to illegal drug distribution, health care fraud and aggravated identity theft. The charges carry a maximum combined penalty of more than 20 years in prison and a $750,000 fine.

Smith's attorney, Noell Tin of Charlotte, wouldn't comment Thursday. The physician's next court hearing has not been scheduled.

Smith owned and operated Mt. Holly Family Practice and was the only male physician on staff. His clientele included a high number of pain-management and substance-abuse patients, due to Smith receiving federal approval to operate an opioid-treatment program from his family-practice offices, documents say.

Prosecutors say the doctor's sex-for-drugs trade began in January 2017 and lasted about 10 months.

In an August incident, Smith coerced a woman seeking treatment for opiate addiction into having sex with him in an examination room while the woman's 3-year-old daughter was on hand, prosecutors say. Afterward, Smith increased the woman's dosage of Clonazepam, a powerful sedative and popular recreation drug, without giving her any medical examination.

On Sept. 11, the female patient returned. This time she brought her 3-month-old son into the examination room, prosecutors say. After the sex acts, Smith signed over new prescriptions to the patient for Clonazepam and Buprenorphine HCL, a drug used to treat opiate addiction.

The next day, Smith submitted a $78.76 reimbursement claim to the N.C. Medicaid program for the woman's visit, prosecutors say. Medicaid paid out another $131.60 for the woman's fraudulent prescriptions.

In all, Smith's actions cost government health programs at least $10,000, prosecutors say.

In January 2017, Smith propositioned another of his female patients. The woman, whom Smith was treating for addiction and pain management, initially refused his solicitations, documents say.

Smith persisted, threatening to cut off her treatment if she did not comply, documents say. The woman gave in, and for the next 10 months met Smith at his office for sex. After each liaison, Smith prescribed the woman drugs "without performing any medical examination," documents say.

The amount of drugs he illegally dispensed included 120 10mg Oxycodone Acetaminophen tablets; 1,015 units of Buprenorpine HCL; 1,101 units of Aprazolam, and 630 units of Clonazepam.

In September, he used the personal information and Medicaid credentials of one of his victims to commit "one or more" unspecified felonies.

Smith's medical license was suspended last October for what the N.C. Medical Board described as "immoral and dishonorable conduct." He is the latest Charlotte-area physician embroiled in sex scandals.

Prominent eye doctor Jonathan Christenbury has been sued by former female employees who say he propositioned and assaulted them in and out of the office and eventually fired them without cause. The case is now bogged down in a pretrial legal fight over Christenbury's personal medical records.

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Dr. Fidelis Edosomwan of Charlotte is scheduled to go on trial next month, charged with fondling at least nine female patients during routine exams.

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In February, a jury awarded two of Edosomwan's accusers more than $2 million in their lawsuit against the physician.

During his testimony, Edosomwan maintained his innocence and said some of the opposing witnesses suffered from “#metoo syndrome.”

Michael Gordon: 704-358-5095; @MikeGordonOBS