A former Veterans Affairs doctor accused of causing the death of three patients, manipulating his own toxicology tests and defrauding his employer was federally indicted Tuesday.
Robert Morris Levy, formerly of Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks in Fayetteville, has been charged three counts of involuntary manslaughter, 12 counts of wire fraud, 12 counts of mail fraud and four counts of making false statements in certain matters from a yearlong investigation into his activities as a pathologist. Levy in his time as a pathologist at the Fayetteville VA from 2005-18 allegedly tried to cover up misleading diagnoses that led to the patients' deaths and used an intoxicant that is undetectable in conventional toxicology tests, according to a Western District of Arkansas news release.
Levy's combined charges hold a maximum sentence of up to 524 years in federal prison and $7.75 million in fines, Western District Attorney Duane "DAK" Kees said at a Tuesday news conference in Fayetteville.
"When veterans go to the VA for their healthcare, they deserve to be helped and not be harmed," VA Inspector General Michael Missal said at the news conference. "When a physician or a provider does not meet applicable standards, much less engage in criminal acts, they will be held accountable."
Levy's indictment alleges that he caused the death of three patients by entering incorrect and misleading diagnoses. Levy in these diagnoses claimed in the patients' medical records that a second pathologist agreed with his diagnosis, the indictment states.
"A first-year medical student would have been able to have seen something. He did not, he entered it falsely, and then, when questioned, said a second pathologist had agreed with him," Kees said.
The indictment also alleges that Levy made false statements to a Veterans Affairs special agent, entered information in a patient's medical records and lied during a grievance hearing concerning his employment.
Levy in his time as a pathologist also allegedly on 12 occasions consumed 2-methyl-2-butanol, which allows a person to become intoxicated but is not detectable in drug and alcohol testing. The substance is typically for commercial use and carries the risk of death even in small doses, Kees said.
"He had the medical expertise, the knowledge, the skill set and the equipment to know exactly how much of this substance to take. He had the equipment to measure it out precisely, and he had the knowledge to know how to ingest it so it wouldn’t be fatal," Kees said.
U.S. attorneys believe Levy used the substance and mailed his urine samples to the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure, where he obtained his medical license, "to mask the results of the test," Kees said. Levy was mandated to send the urine samples to the State Board after a drug and alcohol test in 2016 revealed he was under the influence of alcohol while on duty, a Western District news release states.
The urine samples, Kees said, were part of a scheme "to defraud the 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," the release states.
"Personally, I don’t think anyone could have known that a pathologist would have used his knowledge and expertise in such a way," Kees said.
Authorities arrested Levy on Tuesday morning after a federal warrant was issued. He has not cooperated with the investigation and has not sought counsel since his arrest, Kees said.
Kees at the news conference pointed out that the investigation into Levy's alleged actions is still open, adding that Western District attorneys looked at the most serious offenses and the offenses that were the most prosecutable prior to his arrest.
"From the very beginning, my office understood the unique nature of this case. From the very beginning, my office appreciated the severity of these charges, and I can tell you that from day one, we made this case a priority, and it will remain a priority until this case is closed," Kees said. "The veterans deserve nothing less."