Joel Miller, who formerly practice medicine in Craig, was arrested Monday in Steamboat Springs on charges of health care fraud, money laundering and dispensing controlled substances that reportedly resulted in death, according to a Department of Justice news release.
Miller, who was a licensed physician in Colorado, faces 34 criminal charges. He practiced medicine in Craig from 2008 to 2012, during which time he allegedly executed a plan to defraud Medicaid, Medicare and commercial health care plans, the release stated.
He operated a private practice in Craig called High County Medical. In November 2012 he closed his office leaving only a note that said that said without criminal charges, the federal government had shut his practice down.
He had been under investigation since April 2012 when the U.S. Department of Justice seized some of his patient files. That July he was arrested and booked into jail on two misdemeanor counts. That arrest led to a temporary suspension of his medical license by the Colorado Board of Medical Examiners.
While in Craig he was a divisive figure because of the reputation of his practice. He had many supporters — so many that he had a Facebook page devoted to him called “Support Dr. Joel Miller” that was launched in August 2012 and is still active today with regular updates.
“Many people in Moffat County were directly negatively affected by the actions of Dr. Miller,” said Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz in a statement. “Some in our community were caused great harm and pain, which will never go away for those families. Hopefully, this arrest and indictment will bring some closure to those affected by his actions.”
The two deaths that he was criminally charged for, were allegedly caused by Miller prescribing benzodiazepines and opiates.
“Defrauding our health care system, causing the cost of care to increase is one thing,” Colorado U.S. Attorney John Walsh was quoted as saying in a statement. “It is quite another when a doctor over prescribes prescription medication that, as alleged in this case, causes patients to be addicted, and in two cases here, die.”
Miller reportedly had prescribed controlled substances without there being a medical need and told patients to give the prescriptions to third parties, according to the release.
"Prescription drug abuse is a serious problem and we are committed to investigate along with our law enforcement partners those individuals who are responsible for the illegal distribution of prescription medicine,” said Stephen Boyd, Special Agent in Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation, Denver Field Office.
Miller will go before a detention hearing and arraignment at 4 p.m. Aug. 28 in Grand Junction.
“Personally, I’m delighted. It’s been a long time coming,” said Craig Chief of Police Walt Vanatta.
Erin Fenner can be reached at 970-875-1794 or firstname.lastname@example.org