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Former Niles doctor pleads guilty to illegally prescribing opioids, admits to sex acts with patients

Jeffrey Sutton's illegal prescribing of unnecessary controlled substances took place between January 2015 and January 2022.

CLEVELAND — A doctor in Trumbull County pleaded guilty in federal court on Monday to over 50 charges related to illegally prescribing opioids and other controlled substances to his patients. 

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The charges levied against 65-year-old Jeffrey Sutton, who practiced medicine in Niles, include 31 counts of illegally prescribing patients opioids and other controlled substances, one count of illegally distributing controlled substances, and 20 counts of healthcare fraud.

According to court documents, between January 2015 and January 2022, Sutton knowingly prescribed medically unnecessary controlled substances to patients "outside of the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose."

In accordance with the above activity, Sutton fraudulently billed the unnecessary substances as well as office visits. 

Court documents also revealed that Sutton escalated the opioid dosages to "extreme levels". Sometimes increasing the dosage by more than 1,000%, 22 times the level that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention caution for risk of overdose.

Sutton also combined opioids with other medications such as benzodiazepines which has shown to cause breathing problems, coma and death in similar cases. Sutton also admitted to routinely ignoring warnings from other entities about his high dosage prescriptions, often ignoring patient requests to lower dosages. 

Court documents also revealed that Sutton admitted to engaging in a sex acts with multiple patients whom he prescribed controlled substances to, sometimes during office visits. In addition, he admitted to delivering dozens of oxycodone pills to the home of a patient with whom he was engaged in a sexual relationship, outside the course of treatment and without a valid prescription.

Federal investigators are asking anyone who would like to alert investigators to experiences or observations of Jeffrey Sutton’s practice of medicine or other issues to contact the Cleveland FBI at 216-583-5353.

The charges of healthcare fraud stem from Sutton's use of healthcare benefit programs to pay for patients to receive the unnecessary medication.

Sutton will be sentenced on May 23, 2023.

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