Healthcare exec pleads guilty to multimillion-dollar opioid scheme

Opioid fraudA Michigan healthcare CEO recently pleaded guilty to taking part in a $300 million healthcare fraud scheme that, in the words of U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions, “flooded the streets” with millions of doses of opioids and other controlled substances.

Mashiyat Rashid was CEO of the Tri-County Wellness Group of medical providers which operated pain clinics and laboratories in Michigan and Ohio. As part of his plea agreement, Rashid will forfeit more than $51 million, along with property found to have been purchased with the proceeds of his healthcare fraud, including more than $11.5 million in commercial real estate and residential real estate and Detroit Pistons season tickets.

He was among those indicted earlier this year in a history-making healthcare fraud sweep that netted more than 600 people in 58 federal districts.

Rashid not only is alleged to have defrauded the government, but according to a superseding indictment, which added additional charges of wire fraud and money laundering, he also conspired with physicians to require Medicare beneficiaries looking to obtain controlled substances to submit to expensive, medically unnecessary and painful injections. His scheme is said to have taken place between 2008 until his arrest in 2017.

“Rashid paid physicians based on the number of injections that Medicare paid for, regardless of the medical necessity of the injections. In turn, the physicians conducted these repetitive and unnecessary injections on patients in order to increase revenue for Rashid, themselves, and their co-conspirators,” according to a news release.

When Medicare conducted a medical review of the injection claims, it determined that none of them were eligible for reimbursement and suspended billing privileges for one of the pain clinics involved in the scheme. However, Rashid and others simply went on to create new shell companies and enrolled them in Medicare to continue billing “often changing only the name of the company on the door to the medical practice and/or inventing new suite numbers to conceal the continuation of the fraudulent practices at the same location,” according to the news release.

Rashid also owned a diagnostic lab where medically unnecessary urine drug testing took place. A Medicare review determined that 95 percent of the tests ordered were not eligible for reimbursement. As with the injections, Rashid and others created a new corporate entity to continue engaging in illegal behavior.

He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, and one count of money laundering. It was alleged he laundered $6.6 million through wire transfers using the proceeds to purchase luxury clothing, watches, expensive cars and a mansion.

Others charged in the scheme include: Rashid; Spilios Pappas, 61, of Monclova, Ohio; Joseph Betro, 57, of Novi, Michigan; Tariq Omar, 61, of West Bloomfield, Michigan; and Mohammed Zahoor, 51, also of Novi, were each charged in a superseding indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud. Pappas, Betro, Omar, and Zahoor were each additionally charged with one count of health care fraud. All of the defendants were previously charged in an original indictment, along with Yasser Mozeb, 35, of Oakland County, Michigan and Abdul Haq, 72, of Ypsilanti, Michigan. Mozeb and Haq have pleaded guilty, along with 12 other defendants, including seven other physicians.

Trial for his co-conspirators has been scheduled to begin on Nov. 27. Rashid’s sentencing is set for April 11.

The case is a continuation of federal enforcement agencies’ aggressive crackdown on healthcare fraud, as well as its focus on the opioid epidemic.

“The message should be clear: that the collective resources of local, state and federal law enforcement will expose these schemes and will bring you to justice,” noted Timothy R. Slater of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office.

The Health Law Offices of Anthony C. Vitale focuses its practice on healthcare fraud defense. Mr. Vitale represents clients under investigation by the Department of Justice, FBI, Office of the Inspector General, DEA, Office of the Attorney General Statewide Prosecutor and Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, Florida Department of Insurance Division of Insurance Fraud and other investigatory bodies. If you have any questions contact us at 305-358-4500 or send us an email to info@vitalehealthlaw.com.

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