MASON, OH (FOX19) - When plastic surgeon Deborah Sillins, M.D., heard that the practice where she worked was hiring a new doctor, she Googled him. What she discovered would soon cause her to resign, she tells FOX19 exclusively.
The owner of the now defunct Center for Optimal Vitality in Mason was bringing Dr. Subramanya Prasad on-board, even though court records and medical board documents show that Dr. Prasad was swept-up in a nationwide investigation seven years ago into doctors illegally selling prescriptions over the Internet to patients they'd never met.
Dr. Prasad admitted in court to selling prescriptions for diet pills, Ambien, and a generic form of Soma, a powerful muscle relaxer. He cooperated with federal investigators and was given a year of probation. Before he pleaded guilty, a prosecutor warned him that the crime was serious enough that he could be deported.
Dr. Prasad claims he took part in the scheme because he wasn't making enough money to support his family. Records indicate he was working part-time at an urgent care center and participating in an unpaid fellowship at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic, where it turns out, he was arrested.
"I know that for myself, if I had to make way and to do things, I would get a job as a waitress," Dr. Sillins told FOX19. "Which I have, you know, to help pay for school."
She does not believe the medical boards in Ohio and Kentucky should've given Dr. Prasad another chance. But they did.
FOX19 requested an interview with Dr. Prasad but, through his attorney, he declined.
Multiple sources, including Dr. Prasad's attorney, confirm that the Center for Optimal Vitality's owner, Dr. Bruce Worrell, is selling the business to Dr. Prasad. When FOX19 stopped-by last week, it had been renamed Cincinnati's Vitality Center.
Dr. Worrell permanently lost his medical license in Ohio two years ago this month after authorities discovered that he had been seeing Medicare patients, which was forbidden following his "eight count felony indictment for deception to obtain dangerous drugs," according to board documents. That was, at least publicly, the moment he hit rock bottom in his struggle with addiction. The board gave him another chance to practice medicine as long as he would enter treatment. But the federal government didn't want him accepting payment for Medicare or Medicaid patients for five years, a sanction that Dr. Worrell admits violating.
With Dr. Worrell's track record and Dr. Prasad's baggage, Dr. Sillins decided last fall it was time to leave. She didn't like the atmosphere anyway.
"It was more of just getting patients in, not really treating them as a whole," she said. "It was more of a money situation."
Dr. Sillins recently opened a new office in Hebron, Kentucky. However, some patients who want to follow her across the river say they're having trouble getting their paperwork from her former practice.
Among them is Tammy Oakley, a patient who drives about 100 miles from Indianapolis every four months for hormone treatments. She was "furious" and "livid" by the response she got when she called to request her medical records.
"And they informed me that I couldn't have them," Oakley recalled.
Eventually she was told it could take 30 to 90 days to get them, despite the fact Oakley told them she had an appointment with Dr. Sillins the first full week in January.
"I felt like they were trying to manipulate me into saying, 'Well, you're not going to be able to see Dr. So-and-So. You just come here," Oakley said.
However, Dr. Prasad's attorney denies the allegation.
"He is diligently trying to provide medical records in accordance with the law," said Orly Rumberg of Schwartz Manes Ruby & Slovin in Cincinnati.
In Ohio, the law says doctors must provide patients with their medical records "within a reasonable time after receiving a request."
When we spoke with Oakley last week, she said she was still waiting on her records. However, she discovered that she'd saved copies of some of her test results at home and was able to resume treatment with Dr. Sillins. She is also grateful that Jungle Jim's pharmacy agreed to provide her and other patients with their prescription dosage information, important after doctors have already spent months adjusting hormone levels to what one's body needs.
Meanwhile, the business deal between Drs. Prasad and Worrell has yet to be finalized, Rumberg tells FOX19.
Whether Prasad is able to move beyond his past run-in with law enforcement will likely depend on whether potential patients search his history on the Internet and, if they do, give him the benefit of the doubt.
But Oakley would not be one of them.
"There's too much going on right now, as far as I'm concerned, regarding prescription drugs and the lack of control," she said. "I would be very concerned about going to see anyone who participated in that type of business."