Jackson County

DEA charge involves Coast doctor, escort and pills

Digestive Health in Ocean Springs
Digestive Health in Ocean Springs jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com

A doctor who worked in Harrison and Jackson counties is accused of offering a confidential informant prescriptions in exchange for escort services and later providing prescriptions to the prostitute and an additional undercover DEA agent.

Michael Jay Loebenberg of Ocean Springs was arrested on one count of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance outside the scope of professional practice.

According to an affidavit filed by a DEA agent, Loebenberg worked for Digestive Health Center, which has offices in Biloxi, Ocean Springs and Pascagoula, when he provided the prescriptions but had been terminated in August. DEA agents believe he is practicing at Merit Health Biloxi and Singing River Health System. However, Singing River Health System officials say Loebenberg has admitting privileges at the hospital, but is not employed there.

According to the affidavit filed Wednesday by the DEA’s Mary M. Flinchum, a confidential source told agents the source had had an “escort encounter” with Loebenberg in December. Loebenberg told the informant he was a gastrointestinal doctor and offered a trade: Escort services for controlled-substance prescriptions, the agent wrote.

The subsequent investigation did not turn up any evidence of additional “escort encounters,” but surveillance revealed a number of exchanges of prescription medications for cash, according to the DEA affidavit.

Between Jan. 29 and June 8, the DEA conducted three undercover operations involving Loebenberg.

On Jan. 29, Loebenberg arrived at a Biloxi pizzeria in a silver BMW and gave the informant a prescription for 90 hydrocodone in exchange for $40.

The informant later contacted Loebenberg by text message and asked about getting similar prescriptions for friends. Loebenberg replied he needed to be careful with his license but agreed to meet with the friends after being assured by the informant they were “trustworthy.”

On April 5, the informant and an undercover agent met with Loebenberg, who this time arrived in a Dodge Ram pickup truck. The agent bought five prescriptions for hydrocodone and the appetite suppressant phentermine. One of the prescriptions was for someone who was not at the meeting, according to the affidavit.

On June 8, Loebenberg, driving a red Audi, met again with the undercover agent, who bought prescriptions for hydrocodone and the attention-deficit drug Adderall.

Loebenberg didn’t medically examine either person but after the final meeting told the agent to come to his office so he could create a file in case the pharmacy called the clinic, Flinchum said.

Loebenberg appeared in federal court Wednesday before Magistrate Judge Robert H. Walker, who set a $25,000 unsecured bond. Loebenberg, who said he plans to hire his own attorney, requested a preliminary hearing. It was set for Sept. 7.

Loebenberg could not be reached for comment. A doctor at Digestive Health declined to comment.

Sun Herald reporter Anita Lee contributed to this story.

Regina Zilbermints: 228-896-2340, @RZilbermints

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