A Mississippi Coast doctor has been fined $15,000 and sentenced to 18 months in prison for selling prescriptions to an escort and an undercover agent.
Ocean Springs resident Michael Jay Loebenberg was a gastroenterologist when an escort told drug agents the doctor had offered to trade sex for prescriptions, court papers show. He was working for Digestive Health Center, which has locations in Ocean Springs, Biloxi and Pascagoula, but has since been fired.
U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola Jr. sentenced Loebenberg on Friday and allowed him to remain free on bond until he is told where and when to report to a federal prison. Guirola ordered the prison term followed by three years of probation.
A federal grand jury had indicted Loebenberg on Dec. 7, 2016, on 17 counts of possession with intent to distribute controlled substances outside the scope of professional practice. Federal prosecutors alleged there were no office visits, medical exams or legitimate need for the drugs.
Drugs named in court records are Norco, Adderall and Adipex. Their respective generic names are hydrocodone, amphetamine/dexamphetamine and phentermine.
Loebenberg, 64, pleaded guilty June 21 to a charge involving Adipex, an appetite suppressant that is not a narcotic but is a controlled substance.
BMW, Audi and Dodge Ram meetings
He came under investigation Jan. 13, 2016, when Biloxi police and the Drug Enforcement Administration met with an escort who said Loebenberg had offered to exchange sex for prescriptions.
State and federal drug agents encouraged the escort to set up a meeting to buy drugs from him, according to legal papers. The escort bought a 90-pill prescription for Norco from Loebenberg on Jan. 29, 2016, while he sat in a car outside Popp’s Pizzeria on Cedar Lake Road in Biloxi.
The escort asked Loebenberg if he could provide prescriptions for acquaintances, and set up two meetings that included an undercover agent.
On April 5, 2016, the escort and agent met Loebenberg outside Applebee’s restaurant in Ocean Springs. The agent paid Loebenberg $200 for five prescriptions of Norco, Adderall and Adipex. Loebenberg’s guilty plea is based on an Adipex prescription sold at that meeting.
In a meeting at the same Applebee’s on June 6, 2016, the agent paid Loebenberg $200 for five prescriptions of Norco and Adderall, records show. A second undercover agent wanted a prescription but was not there. Loebenberg suggested the person come into his office in case a pharmacy called to verify the prescription, a document said.
Each time, he advised the escort he would be driving a specific vehicle — a silver BMW, a red Audi and a blue Dodge Ram truck.
Agents said they learned in August 2016 that Loebenberg had been fired from his job.
That’s the same month a Biloxi woman filed a lawsuit against him in Jackson County. The woman alleges Loebenberg was impaired when he performed a colonoscopy on her in January 2015, and he punctured or cut her intestines. The status of that lawsuit wasn’t immediately available.
He was arrested in the federal case Aug. 31, 2017.