Fayetteville doctor arrested on involuntary manslaughter charges in VA deaths investigation

News

Courtesy: Washington County Sheriff’s Office

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – A local doctor who had worked for the Veterans Administration before being fired following a deaths investigation has been indicted by a federal grand jury.

Charges against Dr. Robert Morris Levy, including involuntary manslaughter, were announced Tuesday afternoon in a Fayetteville news conference.

Federal officials say Levy has also been indicted on charges of wire fraud, mail fraud and making false statements.

Levy is accused of having been impaired by alcohol while on duty.

More details from news release:
According to the Indictment (click here to read), Levy held a medical license issued by the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure issued in 1997. In 2005, the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks (“Fayetteville VA”) hired Levy to serve as the Chief of Pathology and Laboratory Medical Services, a position he held until his termination in 2018.

In 2015, Levy was interviewed by an administrative fact-finding panel regarding reports that Levy was under the influence of alcohol while on duty. Levy denied the allegations. In 2016, Levy appeared to be intoxicated while on duty, and a subsequent drug and alcohol test revealed Levy’s blood alcohol content was .396.0 mg/dL. As a result, the Fayetteville VA summarily suspended Levy’s privileges to practice medicine and issued Levy a written notice of removal and revocation of clinical privileges. Levy acknowledged that the pending proposed removal and revocation of clinical privileges was “due to unprofessional conduct related to high blood alcohol content while on duty” and in July 2016, Levy voluntarily entered a three-month in-patient treatment program, which he completed in October 2016.

Toward the end of the treatment program, Levy executed a contract with the Mississippi Physician Health Program and the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure in anticipation of returning to practice medicine at the Fayetteville VA. In the contract, Levy agreed to maintain sobriety to ensure his ability to practice medicine with reasonable skill and safety to patients. Levy agreed to “abstain completely from the use of…alcohol and other mood-altering substances” and to submit to random urine and/or blood drug screens. Non-compliance would potentially subject Levy to loss of his medical license and, in turn, his employment by the Fayetteville VA. Levy returned to work at the Fayetteville VA in October 2016.

As part of the contract, Levy randomly provided urine specimens and blood samples for drug testing from November 2016 through June 2018. Each blood sample and urine specimen tested was reported negative for the presence of drugs and alcohol. On twelve occasions beginning in June 2017 and continuing through 2018, while Levy was contractually obligated to submit to random drug and alcohol screens, Levy purchased for personal consumption 2-methyl-2-butanol (2M-2B), a chemical substance that enables a person to achieve a state of intoxication but is not detectable in routine drug and alcohol testing methodology.

The Indictment charges that Levy devised a scheme to defraud the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and to obtain money and property from the VA in the form of salary, benefits, and performance awards he would not have received had the VA known Levy was intentionally concealing his non-compliance with the drug and alcohol testing program. In furtherance of this scheme, Levy concealed a material fact and made material false and fraudulent representations.

The Indictment also alleges that Levy twice made false statements to a special agent of the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Indictment further alleges that Levy made false statements in health care matters by entering information in a patient’s medical records that Levy knew to be false and by making a false statement during a grievance hearing related to his employment.

Finally, the Indictment charges Levy with three counts of involuntary manslaughter for causing the death of three patients through entering incorrect and misleading diagnoses and, on two occasions, by falsifying entries in the patients’ medical records to state that a second pathologist concurred with the diagnosis Levy had made. The Indictment alleges that the incorrect and misleading diagnoses rendered by Levy caused the deaths of three veterans.

Duane (DAK) Kees, the United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas stated, “This indictment should remind us all that this country has a responsibility to care for those who have served us honorably. When that trust is violated through criminal conduct, those responsible must be held accountable. Our veterans deserve nothing less.”

“The arrest of Dr. Levy was accomplished as a result of the strong leadership of the US Attorney’s Office and the extensive work of special agents of the VA Office of Inspector General, supported by the medical expertise of the OIG’s healthcare inspection professionals,” stated Michael Missal, Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs. “These charges send a clear signal that anyone entrusted with the care of veterans will be held accountable for placing them at risk by working while impaired or through other misconduct. Our thoughts are with the veterans and their families affected by Dr. Levy’s actions.”

United States Magistrate Judge Erin L. Wiedemann presided over Levy’s arraignment today.

The Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General is conducting the investigation and Assistant United States Attorneys Kyra Jenner and Bryan Achorn are prosecuting the case for the United States.

An Indictment is merely an accusation. An arrest warrant represents a finding of probable cause. A person is presumed innocent unless or until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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