Nearly four years have passed since federal authorities raided Dr. Anthony Alexander’s offices in Seymour and Jeffersonville.
While no one was ever arrested, no criminal charges were filed and The Pain Clinic and Rehabilitation Center practices reopened the next day, Alexander’s reputation was damaged, he suffered from depression and anxiety and had many sleepless nights, he lost connection with his family and his employees always were in defense mode.
As long as he lives, he said the Dec. 11, 2014, raid will loom over his head.
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“They are never going to come out and say, ‘Dr. Alexander, we found nothing,’” he said. “That is never going to happen. It is considered an open investigation. I’ll be in my grave, and they will still be calling it an open investigation.”
Former employees accused Alexander of overprescribing painkillers to patients and Medicaid and insurance fraud. No patient complaints were made.
About a year prior to the raid, he had worked with Sen. Ron Grooms and Rep. Steve Stemler, both of Jeffersonville, to write an opioid rule for Indiana.
“It was basically how to prescribe properly and how to protect the community by drug testing and all of the other stuff you need to do — have a history and a physical,” Alexander said. “You couldn’t just write a prescription. You had to show documentation for reasoning of why you would do these things.”
That’s why it was shocking to Alexander when Drug Enforcement Administration officials entered his offices — 19 in Seymour and 17 in Jeffersonville.
“We had just participated in assisting the state free of charge in coming up with the rule that would sort of begin to put some guidelines in for doctors in how to prescribe and what we would look for and how to protect Indiana,” he said.
Alexander was in a meeting with nurse administrator Joyce DiBlasi at the Jeffersonville office. Soon, the Seymour office called to say authorities were there, too.
Employees were told not to make or answer any phone calls, and nobody, including patients, could leave the building.
“It was like we were under arrest,” DiBlasi said. “It was like we were in a hostage situation, ‘Don’t use your phone. You can’t leave, and nobody else can come in.’ We all had to sit in a group and sit together. It was very, very intimidating. If you want to ask questions, I’ll talk to you all day, but to come in and act like you were holding up a bank and we were the bank workers, it was scary.”
The search warrant application alleged Alexander or one of his nurse practitioners was responsible for eight drug overdose deaths of patients who received controlled substance prescriptions between 2008 and 2013.
“A well-ran pain practice takes care of people who are end of life and who have a disease that’s not going to go away called chronic pain,” Alexander said.
“So when the state is making these assertions about ‘This person died under his care, that person died under his care,’ when you come in here with cancer and it’s metastatic, you’re going to die under my care because you are end of life,” he said. “I’m going to still be participating with you until the end, so that’s a misnomer.”
As for the fraud allegations, Alexander said a small fraction of his patients may receive benefits from Medicaid, but he is a nonordering, prescribing or referring provider that does not receive Medicaid reimbursements.
“To try to label it as, ‘Well, we’re making sure that you didn’t write prescriptions that shouldn’t have been paid for by the Medicaid program,’ that’s a little bit of a stretch,” he said. “That’s about as big of a stretch as you can get, and to make it seem like we’re a Medicaid provider, we’re not a Medicaid provider.”
Another concern at the time of the investigation was authorities having access to patient records. Medicaid officials then showed up at patients’ homes to ask questions.
While Alexander didn’t lose any patients after the raid, he lost about a third of his staff between the two offices. Some of them, however, later returned.
“Everybody who worked here had to defend themselves on where they worked,” DiBlasi said. “We lost some employees for fear that it would ever happen again or the mystery of ‘Is there something we don’t know about?’ We’ve had three come back because they realized there was nothing.”
Alexander also said 55 percent of income was lost, and his reputation in the community was affected.
“Luckily, the guys that I had been playing golf with for years were like, ‘Calm down, Tony. It’s going to be OK. We know you’re not that person they are trying to make you out to be,’” he said.
“Some of my friends are state police officers. They said, ‘We know your character,’” he said. “They’ve been patients of mine. They weren’t overly concerned. If they would have noticed as state police officers while they were patients, then of course, that would have been a flag, but they knew we were clean.”
Alexander also was uneasy because authorities were watching his every move.
“The scary thing for me was you get home and you click on your WiFi and right there on the WiFi was ‘FBI surveillance van No. 2’ and it stayed there for six months,” he said.
DiBlasi said numerous times, vehicles were in the parking lot outside the offices.
“We just started calling our local police and saying, ‘We’re being stalked’ because we really don’t know for sure who it is,” she said. “They are unmarked cars, but is it the government or is it a person that’s stalking us? For our own safety, we always call when we’re being stalked. Then they’ll call back in and say, ‘They’re OK,’ which we figure means they are covered somehow, that it’s OK that they are out there.”
Alexander’s reputation also was damaged with some pharmacies because they refused to fill his patient’s prescriptions.
“Our patients came back crying and humiliated when they went to fill Dr. Alexander’s prescription and they were quoting what was in the newspaper,” DiBlasi said. “They were quoting what they thought they knew out of context.”
Alexander also has applied for jobs in five other states and went through interviews but never got a call back. He said once they searched his name on the internet, articles about the raid came up and raised concern.
“It’s never going to go away. It was not only just an impact of my present, but it’s an impact on my future as long as I want to practice medicine,” he said.
“They literally came in and shattered 30-something years of practicing medicine like that,” he said, snapping his fingers. “Repairing or rebuilding that reputation, it’s gone. There was nothing about this that made sense to me ever.”
One of the most difficult repercussions is how Alexander’s family was affected.
“This isn’t stuff you can talk to your family about,” he said. “I have no family here — none. They would have been petrified and terrified wondering ‘What the heck is going on? What can we do? How can we help?’ You can’t help. This is generated because a very powerful, large law firm in Indianapolis had enough political power to cause my life to get crashed.”
Alexander is referring to a $25 million lawsuit he filed in January 2013 against SSIMED, the electronic medical record software company he used at his offices.
SSIMED later changed to Origin Healthcare Solutions and now is known as Meridian Healthcare.
“They basically did not train us at all on how to use their system,” Alexander said. “We notified them that we had huge losses. They were processing somewhere around 30 percent of the claims, and 70 percent were being lost for nine and a half years, and they were lying to us.”
Alexander said he believes the lawsuit is the reason his offices were raided. Just a few days before that, he was preparing for deposition.
“All of a sudden, I go from being prepped for a civil suit to hiring a criminal attorney,” he said. “I had to have a criminal attorney sitting there to make sure I wouldn’t incriminate myself by answering questions in the civil case.”
In February 2016, a federal judge ruled there was no case. Alexander filed an appeal the next month, but it wasn’t until June of this year that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, Illinois, ruled the statute of limitations had not run out and all claims were valid.
The trial is set for Dec. 3 in Evansville.
While Alexander hopes to get his money back, he has incurred a lot of attorney fees, had to pay a lot of taxes and has been hit hard by other financial issues.
“Seymour adopted me, and this became home, and this raid destroyed my home,” he said. “It destroyed my relationships that I had built all of these years with all of these people. It’s like being uncomfortable in your own skin. I’ve never been uncomfortable in my skin. … Seymour didn’t make me feel uncomfortable, but the raid destroyed that. It totally redid my life.”
Alexander, however, said he knows he did nothing wrong and he has patients relying on him at his two practices, so that keeps him moving forward.
“The need is still there,” he said. “You still need people who are really qualified to come and take care of people. The way I look at it is you have to step beyond you and be that person until God one day says, ‘OK, Tony, that’s enough.’ And trust me, when he says that, I’m retiring. I’m not going to second guess that.”