[UPDATE] Charges Dropped in Tallahassee Doctor Prescription Fraud Case

By: Julie Montanaro; Heather Biance Email
By: Julie Montanaro; Heather Biance Email

UPDATED 5.20.2011 by Julie Montanaro

Dr. Mark Hash issued a written statement today in response to those charges being dropped:

"In July 2010 brake lines were cut on one of my cars. Due to my ongoing concern for my families security I am not releasing a statement at this time."

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UPDATED 5.19.2011 by Julie Montanaro

A doctor arrested in a sting at a Tallahassee diet clinic is no longer facing criminal charges.

Court records show that the state attorney has dropped all charges against Dr. Mark Hash.

Hash was arrested back in November 2009 along with two employees at the First Impressions Weight Loss Clinic in Southwood. He was charged with prescription fraud.

Yet prosecutor Nick Bader says the state opted to drop charges in advance of Hash's June trial, saying they did not feel they had enough evidence to convict him.

A spokesperson for Florida's Department of Health says an administrative complaint is still pending against Hash.

He has not yet responded to our request for a comment.

Stephen Duncan, who was arrested in the wake of the FDLE investigation too, was offered a deferred prosecution deal in February. A spokesperson for the Department of Health says there is an administrative complaint pending against him too.

The clinic on Coolidge Court still has a First Impressions Sign posted outside, but the doors are locked and no furnishings are visible through the glass doors.

We did attempt to reach the one-time owners via their attorney to find out what has become of the clinic, but have not yet received a response.
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UPDATED 11.3.09 6:50pm

Two Tallahassee diet doctors stand accused of prescription fraud and two clinic employees face felonies too. But today the owner of a weight loss clinic where they worked insists no one broke the law.

The First Impressions Weight Loss Clinic in Southwood is open for business and clients like Chris Cicatello were stunned by word of the arrest of two employees and the clinic's supervising physician.

"I was upset because they're good people working here. I've been coming here for three years and there's never been any problems with anybody working here. There's nothing that I've seen that they're doing wrong," Cicatello said.

Monday, the supervising physician here, Mark Hash, was arrested for prescription fraud and the clinic founder Jane Watts and another employee, Shakisha Curry, were arrested for practicing health care without a license.

FDLE contends the doctor was prescribing diet drugs without meeting the patients or evaluating them first. It's a contention the clinic owner vehemently denies.

"I can't see where he's broken any laws or rules of any kind," co-owner Karl Watts said.

Not freely writing prescriptions?

"No, ma'am. No."

All the clients who come to you have been evaluated and their medical histories checked before they received a prescription?

"Every single one, yes ma'am," Watts said in an interview Tuesday.

Watts also claims his wife, Jane, never presented herself as a dietitian -only a "nutritional consultant" and an attorney for fellow employee Shakisha Curry says she never claimed to be an LPN.

"She has graduated from nursing school. She's waiting to take her boards, but she had no idea the clinic web site was listing her as an LPN," attorney Chuck Hobbs said.

An FDLE spokesman says the agency stands by its findings and its charges which were leveled after five months of investigating.

Dr. Stephen Duncan - who runs Resolutions Weight Loss Center - faces nine felony counts of prescription fraud.

We tried repeatedly to talk with his attorney today, but with no luck.

A spokeswoman with the Florida Department of Health says both doctors have clear and active licenses and no prior discipline.

DOH spokeswoman Eulinda Smith says the Surgeon General has not made any decisions on whether to restrict or suspend their licenses based on the charges.

A spokeswoman with Capital Regional Medical Center says it has launched an investigation into the allegations against Dr. Stephen Duncan and its medical executive committee will ultimately make a decision about his hospital privileges. That could be before or after his criminal case is resolved.

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Updated 11:44a.m 11/3/2009

Dr. Stephen Duncan, a weight loss physician, was arrested for prescription fraud Monday afternoon.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says Duncan, the owner of Resolutions Weight Loss and the Men's Center of Tallahassee, was booked and charged Monday for writing prescriptions for appetite suppressants for patients he had never medically examined.

Duncan was scheduled for a first appearance Tuesday morning but was released on $9,000 ($1,000 for each felony charge against him) bond 6:56 p.m. Monday night.

Both clinics are still open. They say they'll continue with business as usual and let their attorneys sort through the legal issues.

We will bring you more details as soon as they become available.
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UPDATE 11:15 pm

Two Tallahassee weight loss physicians are arrested for prescription fraud and are accused of writing those prescriptions for patients they've never even met.

With more than 11 counts of prescription fraud charges between them, the two weight loss specialists may have more to lose than their patients.

Their work revolves around getting people to see results when it comes to their waist size, but now the only thing 46-year-old Dr. Stephen Duncan and 48-year-old Dr. Mark Hash are seeing, are felony charges.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says Duncan, the owner of Resolutions Weight Loss and the Men's Center of Tallahassee, and Hash, the supervising physician at First Impression Weight Loss in Southwood, were booked and charged Monday for writing prescriptions for appetite suppressants for patients they had never medically examined.

"Only a doctor can provide a controlled substance, but by law, doctors have to meet with the patients to determine if the controlled substance is medically necessary."

The doctors aren't the only ones in hot water.

Two others have also been slapped with felony charges.

61-year-old Jane Watts, the owner of First Impression Weight Loss, was arrested for presenting herself as a Nutritional Counselor and her employee, Shakisha Curry for posing as a Licensed Practical Nurse.

Both are charged with practicing a health care profession without a license.

FDLE says its investigation started after complaints from citizens came in and an investigation into other weight loss clinics is ongoing.

Three out of the four have bonded out, but Stephen Duncan will stay behind bars Monday night and will appear before a judge Tuesday morning.

Capital Regional Medical Center officials say Duncan's hospital privileges have not been revoked as of Monday, but their Medical Executive Committee will determine what action needs to be taken.

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UPDATE 2:55pm

Official news release from FDLE:

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and the Florida Department of Health today announced the arrest of four individuals employed with two Tallahassee weight loss clinics. Dr. Stephen Duncan, 46, owner of Resolutions Weight Loss and the Men’s Center of Tallahassee, and Dr. Mark Hash, 48, supervising physician at First Impression Weight Loss, were charged with writing prescriptions for controlled substances with no medical necessity, a third-degree felony. Jane Watts, 61, owner of First Impression Weight Loss, and her employee Shakisha Curry, 35, were charged with practicing a health care profession without a license, a third-degree felony.

The investigation began in June 2008 when FDLE received information alleging Dr. Duncan was prescribing Phendimetrazine, a Schedule III controlled stimulant used to manage weight loss, to patients he had not medically examined. The investigation further revealed that Dr. Duncan prescribed Phendimetrazine from his Tallahassee office to patients visiting his clinics in Georgia and North Carolina, as well as to patients visiting his clinics in Orlando, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Chattahoochee, and Panama City, Fla. Dr. Duncan was charged with nine counts of writing prescriptions for controlled substances with no medical necessity.

FDLE began investigating Dr. Hash following allegations that he was prescribing Phendimetrazine to patients he had not initially examined. The investigation revealed that initial examinations of new patients were being performed by non-licensed individuals who also provided them with Phendimetrazine with little to no supervision by the physician. Dr. Hash was charged with two counts of writing prescriptions for controlled substances with no medical necessity.

Jane Watts was presenting herself as a Nutritional Counselor and Shakisha Curry was presenting herself as a Licensed Practical Nurse as part of First Impression’s medical staff. Neither was licensed by the State of Florida to perform any medical service. They were each charged with practicing a health care profession without a license.

This case will be prosecuted by the State Attorney’s Office, 2nd Judicial Circuit. All four subjects were booked into the Leon County Jail.
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Two Tallahassee doctors who own weight loss clinics turned themselves in at the Leon County Jail today to face felony prescription fraud charges.

It comes after a months-long investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Dr. Stephen Duncan, a gynecologist and owner of Resolutions Weight Loss Center, is facing nine felony counts for writing prescriptions for controlled substances without medical necessity. An FDLE spokesman says he wrote prescriptions for a popular weight loss drug without ever meeting or examining the patients.

Dr. Mark Hash is also under arrest. The supervising physician at First Impressions Weight Loss Center in Southwood is facing two felony counts of writing prescriptions for controlled substances without medical necessity.

The founder of the First Impressions Clinic in Southwood and an employee there were also arrested. Jane Watts and Shakisha Curry are both accused of practicing health care without a license.

An FDLE Spokesman says it sent undercover agents into the clinics after getting information that the doctors were writing prescriptions without meeting or examining the patients.


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