A Clearwater doctor wrote and sold “hundreds” of fraudulent prescriptions for people she had never seen, according to a complaint filed in the Pinellas County Clerk of Court.
What the doctor didn’t know, however, was that some of those prescriptions were for law enforcement agents as part of a monthslong investigation by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, the complaint said.
Pinellas jail records show Neelam Uppal, 62, was arrested Tuesday on three counts of trafficking in codeine and three counts of trafficking in oxycodone — all of which are first-degree felonies.
Uppal is certified as an infectious disease doctor. A media release from the Sheriff’s Office Thursday lists her business address as 1407 Gulf to Bay Blvd. in Clearwater.
The investigation into Uppal began after the Sheriff’s Office received a tip on May 11 that she was writing fraudulent prescriptions for cash, according to the complaint.
Since January, detectives believe she sold more than 550 prescriptions for promethazine-codeine cough syrup and “hundreds” of others for oxycodone to people she had never seen as patients, the release said. The confidential informant said the doctor was charging $450 for oxycodone prescriptions and $650 for codeine syrup.
The Sheriff’s Office said authorities believe Uppal “has been preying on drug addicts for several years.”
Detectives searched Uppal’s house and business after obtaining a search warrant and found prescription pads, patient records, ledgers and numerous prescriptions filled out with patient names. Deputies also found more than $1.9 million in cash, as well as gold bars and jewelry valued at $175,000, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
While detectives were searching Uppal’s home and office, two people showed up to get fraudulent prescriptions, the media release said.
The confidential informant told deputies they could text Uppal photos of a person’s driver’s license, and she would write a prescription based on that information. On June 24, the Sheriff’s Office used three driver’s licenses, all of which belonged to Pinellas deputies. Uppal had never seen or treated the deputies, the complaint said.
The informant arranged to buy six prescriptions from Uppal, according to the complaint. The informant, who was wearing an audio and video recording device, was given $3,300 and sent to complete the deal, the Sheriff’s Office said. Authorities arranged similar purchases on June 28 and July 14, using driver’s licenses from Sheriff’s Office deputies and employees with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
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In each instance, the fraudulent prescriptions were filled, the complaint said.
“These transactions amount to six counts of Trafficking under Florida law,” the complaint said. “Dr. Uppal prescribed these narcotics by means of a prescription written in bad faith not in the course of her professional practice as a licensed doctor in the State of Florida.”
DEA agents also have served Uppal an injunction to prevent her from prescribing medication.
Uppal’s Florida medical license is active, but on probation, according to the Florida Department of Health. The agency lists Uppal’s primary practice address as 5840 Park Blvd. in Pinellas Park. She also has “staff privileges” at Bay Medical Center in St. Petersburg.
Uppal was suspended on August 25, 2016, according to disciplinary records on the Department of Health’s website.
In October 2008, Uppal faced disciplinary action for failing to “meet the required standard of care,” failing to keep proper records and for administering inappropriate medication, according to an administrative complaint. The document alleged Uppal failed to provide the proper care to a 16-year-old who was experiencing fatigue, headaches and fevers.
According to the complaint, Uppal gave the teen medication that was not meant for a child that young and did not keep adequate medical records to justify her treatment plan for the teen.
Uppal faced two more administrative complaints, one that took place in 2011 and another that occurred in February 2008. In the 2008 case, Uppal did not maintain complete medical records for her patient, the complaint said. In the 2011 case, Uppal faced disciplinary action for falling “below the acceptable standard of care,” and for not keeping appropriate records.
Uppal, 62, was arrested Tuesday. She faces three counts of trafficking in codeine and three counts of trafficking in oxycodone.
According to the Florida Department of Health, Uppal had her New York State Board of Medicine license revoked in 2017. It was not immediately clear what led to the actions.
Uppal was taken to the Pinellas County Jail and booked, jail records show. Three of the trafficking charges carry a bond of $200,000 each, and the other three carry a bond of $150,000 per count.
She was being held at the jail as of Friday morning, records show.