South Whitley doc charged with overprescribing

WHITLEY COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) A South Whitley family doctor has been arrested and charged with six felonies related to dealing “substantial sums” of prescription drugs without a medical need.

Dr. James E. Hanus

Dr. James E. Hanus surrendered to authorities in Whitley County on Wednesday. Hanus faces four counts of Dealing in a Schedule 2 Controlled Substance and two counts of Dealing in a Controlled Substance by a Practitioner.

According to a release from the Whitley County Prosecutor’s Office, Hanus had been under investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department, Indiana State Police and the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Unit for more than 2 1/2 years. Prosecutors said Hanus “dealt substantial sums of controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose” from August 2012 until October 2016.

“In order to be thorough, in order to be fair, we conducted a years long investigation,” said D.J. Sigler, Whitley County Prosecutor.

It was then – early October 2016 – when DEA agents raided Hanus’s secluded South Whitley home and clinic. The Whitley County Prosecutor’s Office said after those raids that federal agents and state law enforcement agencies had been investigating Hanus for two years.

After that, Hanus voluntarily surrendered his DEA registration, which prohibits him from prescribing or possessing controlled substances.

On the door of Hanus’s South Whitley clinic, a sign was posted Wednesday that indicates the “office is now closed.” The sign directs patients to complete a medical records release form and mail it or fax it.

Some former patients said they were shocked by the charges. They said that is just not the kind of doctor he was.

Hanus has been a doctor in the South Whitley community for decades. Janet Arnold said she has been his a patient since he came to town. He cared for her kids and their kids, she said. Arnold called him a “hometown doctor.”

“He cared about his people,” she said. “He looked at us as his people and his friends. He sensed your pain, he sensed your feeling, and he sensed your hurt. And he [would say], “What can I do to help you as a physician?'”

Hanus saw roughly 4,000 patients, according to Sigler. Many of them lived in South Whitley, a small community with a population of only about 4,800 residents. Sigler made it clear that not all of those patients were being prescribed opioids.

“I wasn’t expecting that because he’s an excellent doctor,” said Bob Gold, who has been a patient for four years. “I believe [the charges] will be dropped. I believe he will be found not guilty.”

Dr. Hanus turned himself in but has since been released after posting $100,000 cash bond. He is scheduled to appear in court July 31.