Health Care

Doc sold $1.5 million in drugs on black market that he prescribed to his own patients

A sign on the door of John Verstraete’s office at 3215 Main St. said the office no longer prescribes controlled substances or narcotics after Verstraete pleaded guilty to selling black market anabolic steroids and human growth hormone. Verstraete was sentenced Thursday to a year in federal prison.
A sign on the door of John Verstraete’s office at 3215 Main St. said the office no longer prescribes controlled substances or narcotics after Verstraete pleaded guilty to selling black market anabolic steroids and human growth hormone. Verstraete was sentenced Thursday to a year in federal prison. amarso@kcstar.com

A Kansas City doctor admitted in federal court last week that he ran a multimillion-dollar scheme to sell illegal anabolic steroids and human growth hormone on the black market.

John Verstraete pleaded guilty to federal drug charges connected to the scheme that prosecutors said he ran from 2011 to 2014 out of his office at 3215 Main St.

He was operating three businesses at that location: a primary care practice called Plaza Physicians Group, an HIV/AIDS specialty clinic called Mid-America Infectious Disease Consultants and a boutique wellness outfit called The House of Elan Medical Spa.

Verstraete is still licensed to practice medicine in Missouri and that's still the practice address he has on file with the Missouri Board of Registration for the Healing Arts. A sign on the door this week said the primary care practice no longer prescribes controlled substances.

A receptionist at Verstraete's office said he was too busy to answer questions about the guilty plea Tuesday, and he did not return a phone message.

According to the plea agreement, Verstraete prescribed a brand-name human growth hormone called Serostim to at least seven patients who didn't need it. Those patients then filled the prescriptions and sold some or all of the medications back to Verstraete or his employees, who paid them in cash.

Verstraete and others then removed the prescription labels and re-sold them on the black market.

At the same time, Verstraete was also illegally importing 25,000 units of anabolic steroids of unknown quality and potency from other countries and selling those "to patients having no legitimate medical need" for them, according to the plea agreement.

Anabolic steroids and HGH are sometimes used by weightlifters, bodybuilders and athletes to gain a competitive edge.

Federal prosecutors said they couldn't determine just how much money Verstraete made from the scheme. But the prescriptions for HGH amounted to at least $1.5 million in fraudulent health insurance claims, which Verstraete has agreed to pay back.

Verstraete pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to dispense a controlled substance outside the scope of legitimate medical practice, which carry maximum prison terms of 10 years and 20 years, respectively.

A sentencing date has yet to be scheduled.

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