Crime

Coast doctor admits trading pills for escort services and cash

A Coast doctor who worked in Harrison and Jackson counties has admitted offering a confidential informant prescriptions in exchange for cash or escort services.

Michael Jay Loebenberg of Ocean Springs pleaded guilty Wednesday to a federal charge of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance outside the scope of a medical practice. In exchange for his plea, the government plans to dismiss three other pending drug charges against Loebenberg at his Sept. 21 sentencing.

Loebenberg is facing a maximum prison sentence of up to five years, followed by two years of post-release supervision, and fines of up to $250,000.

Judge Louis Guirola Jr. allowed Loenbenberg to remain free on bond pending sentencing.

According to an affidavit filed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Loebenberg was working for Digestive Health Center, which has offices in Biloxi, Ocean Springs and Pascagoula, when the crimes occurred. He was fired as short time later.

According the DEA, the doctor was practicing a Merit Health Biloxi and Singing River Health System, though Singing River officials said he was not an employee there, though he had admitting privileges at the time.

The investigation began after the confidential source told drug agents she had an “escort encounter” with Loebenberg in December 2015. Loebenberg told the informant he was a gastrointestinal doctor and offered to give her prescription drugs in exchange for escort services.

In a subsequent investigation, DEA Agent Mary M. Flinchum said, agents did not find any additional evidence of any “escort encounters” involving the doctor, though surveillance showed he had at other times exchanged prescription drugs for cash.

During three undercover buys between Jan. 29 and June 8, 2015, Loebenberg sold prescriptions for hydrocodone, the attention-deficit drug, Adderall, and the diet drug called phentermine. The undercover agents paid the doctor for the prescriptions.

The first exchange occurred Jan. 29, 2015, at a Biloxi pizzeria, where Loebenberg sold a 90-day prescription for hydrcodone in exchange for $40.

The informant later sent to a text to the doctor to ask about getting a similar prescription for friends. Loebenberg told the informant he had to be careful because of his medical license but agreed to meet with the informant’s friends after he was assured they were “trustworthy.”

During two other buys in April and June 2015, Loebenberg sold at least seven prescriptions in exchange for cash.

According to drug agents, Loebenberg never medically examined any person he sold the drugs to but did tell an undercover agent at the last meeting to come to his office so he could make a file in the event a pharmacy called to check into the prescriptiosn he had written.

A Biloxi woman has also sued the doctor because he was allegedly impaired when he performed her colonoscopy in early 2015. The procedure left the woman living with a colostomy bag.

Margaret Baker: 228-896-0538, @Margar45

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