Today Steven Mack, 46, of Bridgeville, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty before Judge William K. Sessions III of the United States District Court for the District of Vermont to one count of attempting to obstruct a federal investigation into the relationship between Mr. Mack’s former employer, Practice Fusion, Inc., and Purdue Pharma LP, the seller of extended release opioid products, including OxyContin.
As explained during the plea hearing, in 2015 and 2016 Mr. Mack was the Director of National Accounts for Practice Fusion, an electronic medical record (EMR) company. In that position, Mr. Mack was a principal point of contact between Practice Fusion and Purdue Pharma with regard to the subject of the investigations. Mr. Mack admitted deleting from his company-issued laptop hundreds of computer files relevant to the investigation, with the intent to obstruct the investigation by impairing the integrity and availability of those records.
Pursuant to the plea agreement, Mr. Mack has agreed to cooperate with respect to ongoing investigations and to provide information about all criminal activities known to Mr. Mack. Pursuant to the plea agreement, which still must be accepted by Judge Sessions, Mr. Mack faces up to 18 months in prison and up to a $75,000 fine.
Acting Unites States Attorney Jonathan Ophardt stated: “Steve Mack criminally interfered with our investigations into the significant criminal conduct of both Purdue Pharma and Practice Fusion. This Office will hold individuals responsible for their roles in corporate malfeasance, and we will not tolerate efforts by anyone to subvert our investigations. Mr. Mack’s guilty plea today marks yet another person we have held individually accountable in connection with our efforts to expose white-collar crime.”
On January 27, 2020, the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont announced that it entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with Practice Fusion by which the EMR vendor admitted to a criminal conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, and a criminal kickback, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7b(b)(1). Practice Fusion solicited and received kickbacks from Purdue Pharma to arrange for an increase in prescriptions of extended release opioids by healthcare providers who used Practice Fusion’s EMR software. Purdue Pharma paid Practice Fusion nearly $1 million to create a clinical decision support (CDS) alert that would prompt physicians to prescribe more extended release opioids. Purdue Pharma’s marketing department financed the kickbacks and participated in designing the CDS alerts, which were presented to physicians as objective medical guidance. Practice Fusion and Purdue Pharma entered the conspiracy because they believed that the CDS would influence doctors’ prescriptions of extended release opioids.
On October 21, 2020, various components of the Department of Justice, including the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Vermont, announced that Purdue Pharma had entered into a plea agreement by which Purdue Pharma would plead guilty to conspiring to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute relating to its arrangement with Practice Fusion, among other things. On November 24, 2020, Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to its illegal conspiracy with Practice Fusion.
Today’s hearing marks the first individual to be prosecuted in connection with the Department of Justice’s recent investigations into Purdue Pharma and Practice Fusion. Mr. Mack is the first individual to be criminally charged from a leading EMR vendor, and, to date, the fourth individual held accountable by the District of Vermont in connection with its EMR investigations. On May 31, 2017, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Vermont announced a resolution with eClinicalWorks LLC (ECW), and in that case required three of ECW’s founders (CEO Girish Navani, CMO Dr. Rajesh Dharampuriya, and COO Mahesh Navani) to be jointly and severally liable for the payment of $154,920,000, and resolved civilly with three non-executive employees, Developer Jagan Vaithilingam, Project Manager Bryan Sequeira, and Project Manager Robert Lynes.
“Today’s guilty plea serves as a strong reminder that we will not tolerate fraud against our federal healthcare system or acts of obstruction that attempt to conceal those schemes,” said Phillip M. Coyne, Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “We appreciate the partnership with the Vermont United States Attorney’s Office in pursuing this type of fraud.”
“Obstructing justice in any investigation will not be tolerated,” stated James A. Dawson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal Division. “This is yet another example of the dedication of the FBI and Department of Justice to hold accountable individuals and businesses who perpetrated and aided in the kickback scheme involving Purdue Pharma and Practice Fusion.”
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Office of Inspector General of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
Acting U.S. Attorney Ophardt commended the investigative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Office of Inspector General of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS-OIG).
Following today’s hearing, Mr. Mack was ordered released subject to conditions. His sentencing is scheduled for June 21, 2021.
Mr. Mack is represented by Stephen Huggard, Esq. of Boston and Robert Katims, Esq. of Burlington. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Owen Foster and Michael Drescher.
The case is captioned United States v. Steven Mack, 2:21-cr-00013-wks (D. Vt.).