Feds: That’s no dwarf, that’s a criminal

Posted at 4:40 PM, Oct 10, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-10 16:40:05-04
(CNN) — He said he was little. And that turned out to be a big problem, according to prosecutors.

Federal prosecutors in Philadelphia unsealed an indictment Friday accusing 45-year-old Eric C. Opitz of bilking Medicare out of more than $535,000 by claiming he was a dwarf who needed human growth hormone.

In reality, according to the indictment, Opitz was 450 pounds and 6 feet, 3 inches.

That’s a nearly 1½ feet taller than what the support group Little People of America says is the cut-off for dwarfism.

But for nearly a year, a pharmacy filled the physical trainer and body building consultant’s prescriptions for as much as 8 milligrams of growth hormone per day — 40 times the FDA’s recommended maximum dose, according to prosecutors.

Medicare footed the bill through a prescription drug benefit program, according to prosecutors. Opitz had claimed his only source of income was $950 a month in Social Security benefits, according to the indictment.

So what did the big guy do with all that growth hormone — which some athletes and bodybuilders use to increase muscle mass?

He sold, it, prosecutors say, at something like $450 for each kit. He found his customers through a brazen ad on Craigslist, according to the indictment.

“Do not wait, a lot in stock from pharmacy but it moves fast,” Opitz wrote in the ad, according to the indictment.

He got customers from all over the United States, but it turns out a handful were undercover investigators.

Opitz was charged with health care fraud, mail fraud and illegal distribution of human growth hormones and anabolic steroids.

Authorities arrested Opitz, then released him pending a detention hearing scheduled Friday afternoon, according to Patty Hartman, a public affairs specialist with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

If convicted, prosecutors say Opitz faces “substantial” prison time.