DETROIT (AP) - A dozen doctors are among 16 people in Michigan and Ohio sentenced to prison for a health care fraud that included the distribution of 6.6 million opioid doses and $250 million in false billings.
A multi-state network of pain clinics participated in the scheme from 2007 to 2018 in which doctors refused to provide patients with opioids unless they agreed to expensive, unnecessary and sometimes painful back injections, the Justice Department said Wednesday.
Authorities described the clinics as "pill mills" and said they were frequented by people suffering from addictions and drug dealers seeking high-dosage prescription drugs like oxycodone.
The injections were selected because they were among the highest reimbursing procedures, rather than based on medical need. Some patients developed adverse conditions, including open holes in their backs.
"Evidence further established that the defendant physicians repeatedly performed these unnecessary injections on patients over several years," the Justice Department said in a release.
Francisco Patino, a doctor and part owner of the clinics, used proceeds from the fraud on jewelry, cars, vacations and to pay mixed martial arts fighters to promote a specialized diet program, it added.
His business partner, Mashiyat Rashid, paid for private jet flights, courtside tickets to the NBA Finals and real estate, while other doctors used the money on luxury cars, gold bars, and even indoor basketball courts and swimming pools.
"These are not just crimes of greed, these are crimes that make this country’s opioid crisis even worse," said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr.
Patino ran a clinic west of Detroit in Livonia. He faces sentencing after his 2021 conviction for conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States, money laundering and other charges.
Rashid of West Bloomfield, Michigan, is serving 15 years in prison and has been ordered to pay more then $51 million in restitution after pleading guilty last year to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, and money laundering.
Rashid was the chief executive of the Tri-County Wellness Group of medical providers in Michigan and Ohio.