Michigan doctor who led 'shots for pills' opioid scheme gets 16.5 years in prison
WAYNE COUNTY, Mich. (FOX 2) - A Michigan doctor was sentenced to 16.5 years in prison after authorities say he led an opioid scheme that provided drugs to patients in exchange for medically unnecessary injections.
Francisco Patino, 68, of Wayne County, was convicted of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, health care fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States and pay and receive health care kickbacks, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and money laundering in September 2021.
According to court documents and evidence at trial, Patino owned multiple medical practices and clinical laboratories in Michigan. At those locations, he developed a "shots-for-pills" protocol, where patients were required to receive unnecessary back injections in exchange for prescriptions of high doses of opioid that they did not medically need. This included excessively prescribing highly addictive opioids to his patients.
In exchange for the opioids, the patients would receive – or be billed as if they had received – unnecessary facet joint or nerve block injections, both lucrative spinal injections, feds said. If patients refused to accept the injections, Patino would withhold their prescriptions for the drugs, authorities said.
From January 2012 through July 2017, Patino billed Medicare for more of these injections than any other provider in the country. In 2016 and 2017, Patino prescribed more 30-milligram Oxycodone pills than any other provider in Michigan.
Twenty-one other people have also been sentenced in this scheme.
"This defendant exploited vulnerable patients struggling with addiction by overprescribing highly dangerous opioid pills and exposing them to unnecessary and sometimes painful injections," said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. "To make matters worse, the defendant and his co-conspirators submitted over $250 million in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare, Medicaid, and other health insurance programs. As this case demonstrates, the Department of Justice will continue to relentlessly combat health care fraud, particularly where defendants endanger patients by providing addictive substances and billing for needless procedures."
Authorities said Patino also pioneered the shots-for-pills protocol while working with CEO Mashiyat Rashid of the Tri-County Wellness Group of medical providers in Michigan and Ohio. In 2018, Rashid pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, and money laundering and was sentenced to 15 years in prison on March 3, 2021.
Others convicted at trial or by guilty plea include 12 other physicians who were trained in Patino’s protocols, along with many non-physician defendants who participated in the conspiracy.
The five other defendants most recently sentenced for their part in this scheme include:
- Yasser Mozeb, 40, of Hamtramck, Michigan, the office manager of the Tri-County clinics, was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay over $46 million in restitution following his guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and pay and receive illegal kickbacks and bribes.
- Kashif Rasool, 47, of Troy, Michigan, a physician, was sentenced to 32 months in prison and ordered to pay nearly $2 million in restitution following his guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.
- Tariq Siddiqi, 45, of Sterling Heights, Michigan, a physical therapist and home health owner, was sentenced to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay over $880,000 in restitution following his guilty plea to one count of health care fraud conspiracy in connection with his payment of illegal kickbacks for the referral of patients from the clinics for medically unnecessary home health services.
- Tasadaq Ali Ahmad, 55, of Canton, Michigan, the owner of a home health agency, was sentenced to 58 months in prison and ordered to pay over $20 million in restitution following his guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and pay and receive kickbacks.
- Stephanie Borgula, 42, of Livonia, Michigan, a licensed physical therapist, was sentenced to 15 months in prison and ordered to pay over $825,000 in restitution following her guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.