Greenwood Village Psychiatrist Pleads Guilty to Illegal Distribution of Controlled Substances and Financial Crimes
Wednesday, March 8, 2023
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Colorado
DENVER – The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado announces Howard Weiss, age 69, of Greenwood Village, pleaded guilty today to distributing a controlled substance outside the usual course of professional practice and for no legitimate medical purpose, structuring financial transactions in a way to evade reporting requirements, and engaging in monetary transactions greater than $10,000 in property derived from specified unlawful activity. He also agreed to forfeit $826,083.24 in criminal proceeds and to a community restitution payment of $150,000.
The plea agreement filed in Court describes the defendant’s crimes. In 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) began an investigation into the defendant because of suspicious financial activity and concerning reports related to his patients’ sale of controlled substances and one patients’ poly-drug overdose death. Further investigation revealed that the defendant was prescribing methamphetamine to several adult patients. Methamphetamine — a highly addictive Schedule II drug — has FDA approval and can be prescribed in very special cases. But most psychiatrists will never prescribe it in the course of their careers. When investigators looked in more detail at prescribing records they discovered other concerning patterns. It is unusual to prescribe high-dose stimulants with high-dose sedatives because the drugs have competing effects. When these drugs are prescribed in concert, it is a good indication that the putative patient may be diverting one or both drugs rather than personally using them, or that one or both drugs are not medically necessary because of the competing effects of these drugs. Yet, the defendant routinely prescribed high-dose stimulants with high-dose sedatives. The defendant also regularly prescribed stimulants such as Adderall at the upper end of the usual dosing range and, sometimes, well beyond the upper end of the usual dosing range.
In July 2017, one of the defendant’s patients was arrested when the patient showed up to a drug deal with 119 methamphetamine pills prescribed by the defendant. The defendant admitted in the plea agreement that he knew that his prescriptions to that patient were outside the usual course and did not have a legitimate medical purpose: the patient’s probation officer had previously contacted him to warn about the patient’s methamphetamine addiction. But he prescribed the methamphetamine anyway.
As part of the plea, the defendant admitted to illegal banking activity. Federal regulations prohibit the “structuring” of financial transactions to thwart the requirement that banks file reports for currency deposits of more than $10,000. But between November 2015 and February 2018, the defendant made forty-five cash deposits are in excess of $9,000 but below the $10,000 threshold, which would require the bank to file a Currency Transaction Report (CTR). Bank tellers reported occasions in which the defendant would show up with a wad of cash, ask it to be counted, and then decline to deposit any amount more than $10,00.
Finally, the defendant also admitted that he used the proceeds of his illegal prescribing to make large financial transactions of more than $10,000.
Judge Daniel D. Domenico presided over the change of plea hearing on March 8, 2023. Sentencing is scheduled for June 6, 2023.
This case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Denver Division. Assistant United States Attorneys Bryan Fields and Jena Neuscheler are handling the prosecution. Assistant United States Attorney Elizabeth Young is handling the parallel forfeiture action.