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Surgeon charged in scheme to pay addicts to receive experimental implant

Doctor charged in scheme to bribe addicts
Charges filed in scheme to pay addicts to get experimental drug treatment 04:38

A California doctor has been charged after it was found that vulnerable drug addicts were being paid hundreds of dollars in cash to receive an experimental procedure, after which several died of overdoses. 

Dr. Randy Rosen is facing 88 felony charges from the Los Angeles Orange County district attorney, who called him "a real life" Frankenstein. Prosecutors have accused him of fraudulently billing insurance companies over $650 million and stealing almost $52 million in what they call an elaborate scheme.

A 2018 CBS News investigation found medical industry insiders claiming that doctors made up to $30,000 conducting a simple, 30-minute outpatient procedure implanting a small pellet.

The pellet, a naltrexone implant, was inserted near a patient's abdomen and released medication to help curb cravings and blocked the brain's opiate receptors. The result was that heroine users conceivably would not feel its effects.

As part of the investigation, CBS News spoke undercover with some marketers and recruiters, who pointed them to Rosen.

A woman named Debbie Berry, whose son was one of the victims of Rosen's procedure, also spoke out. She told CBS News in 2018 that her son, Brennen, texted her to tell her he had a drug problem. 

Desperate to help, Berry got him into treatment in California. One day, he called her to tell her he found something to help. She said he told her, "I'm going to get an implant put in, I'm here with them and they've done a pre-certification that your insurance will pay for it."

Berry said Brennen was "adamant" about how much the implant would help.

Three months after the procedure, Brennen overdosed after taking heroin mixed with fentanyl. After he died, Berry learned her son was paid $1,000 to get the implant.

"I absolutely did not know he was getting paid for it," she told "CBS This Morning: Saturday" co-host Jeff Glor. "You don't give a drug addict cash money."

Rosen declined a 2018 request for comment, and said nothing to a CBS News producer outside of his office. 

Today, Berry said there is "not a second of a day that goes by" that she does not miss her son, but she said she wants to see justice served.

"If they get him convicted, I've already told the DA's office that I will fly to California and I will get on that stand and I will face that man, look him right in the eye and give a victim impact statement," she said.

Berry said she hopes to face Rosen in court, and send him a clear message.

"I want to face him and tell him what he's taken from me and what I have to live with for the rest of my life," she said. "And what I'm living without for the rest of my life."

Rosen plead "not guilty" to all 88 felony counts. CBS News reached out to his attorney for comment multiple times, but he has not responded to the request. 

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