South Bay doctor charged with illegal distribution of opioids

A South Bay doctor is facing more than half a dozen felony charges of the illegal distribution of an opioid.

An online profile describes Dr. Venkat Aachi as a Pain Management Specialist.

The 52-year-old South Bay doctor lives in Saratoga and works at several clinics in the Bay Area including his office in the Alum Rock area of San Jose.

"We were were just so in shock. We were scared, like we didn't know what was going on, because it's right next store," said Mina Turiali who works in the same medical complex.

Tuesday, Dr. Aachi's office was closed. 

One woman who works nearby said law enforcement searched the office one morning a few weeks ago and left carrying boxes of medications.

Dr. Aachi is charged with seven felonies including six counts of illegally distributing an opioid and one count of health care fraud.

The U.S. Attorney's office says between November 2017 and March 2018, Aachi distributed hydrocodone a half dozen times "...knowing and intending that the distribution was outside the scope of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose."

Aachi appeared in the Federal Courthouse in San Jose Friday where he entered a not guilty plea.

KTVU reached out to his attorney but did not hear back.

The arrest comes at a time when the opioid epidemic is in the forefront.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there has been a decline in opioids prescribed in the U.S. but the amount is still extremely high compared to 20 years ago.

If convicted, Aachi faces a maximum 20 years in prison and a one-million dollar fine for each of the six distribution counts and an additional 10 years in prison for the insurance fraud count.