A physician who from 2016 to 2017 was the top prescriber of oxycodone 30 mg in Michigan was charged in a superseding indictment unsealed today with an over $120 million health care fraud and money laundering scheme that involved the alleged medically unnecessary distribution of over 2.2 million dosage units of controlled substances and the administration of medically unnecessary injections that resulted in patient harm.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider of the Eastern District of Michigan, Special Agent in Charge Steven M. D’Antuono of the FBI’s Detroit Division and Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Chicago Regional Office made the announcement.
Francisco Patino, 65, of Wayne County, Michigan, was charged in the superseding indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and one count of money laundering. These charges are in addition to the two counts of health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and pay and receive health care kickbacks that was charged in the initial indictment. The case is pending before U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood of the Eastern District of Michigan. Trial has been scheduled to begin on April 7 before Judge Hood.
The superseding indictment alleges the laundering of the proceeds of the health care fraud scheme to falsely portray the defendant as a legitimate doctor through the publication of a diet book and plan described as the “next Atkins,” paid-for appearances on a nationally syndicated television show, and the sponsorship of boxers, cage fighters and prominent Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) world champions and hall of famers.
The superseding indictment alleges that Patino owned, controlled and operated numerous pain clinics and laboratories in Michigan – including Global Quality Inc., RenAMI, FDRS and Patino Laboratories – and was the top prescriber of Oxycodone 30 mg in Michigan from 2016 to 2017. As alleged in the superseding indictment, from 2008 until his arrest in 2018, Patino induced patients to come to his clinics by offering unnecessary prescriptions for addictive opioids, of which he ultimately prescribed over 2.2 million dosage units of medically unnecessary controlled substances, including fentanyl, oxycodone and oxymorphone. Patino prescribed these opioids to Medicare beneficiaries, some of whom were addicted to narcotics. Some of these opioids were resold on the street, the superseding indictment alleges. Fentanyl is one of the most potent opioids available for human use.
According the superseding indictment, Patino forced patients to submit to unnecessary and sometimes painful back injections and other procedures in exchange for the opioid prescriptions as part of a scheme to defraud Medicare of over $120 million. The superseding indictment alleges that Patino persisted with these unlawful practices even after Medicare informed him that the injections violated Medicare’s rules and after Patino entered into a consent order with the State of Michigan that his prescription of opioids “constitute[d] a violation of the public health code.”
Patino also ordered unnecessary urine drug testing in exchange for illegal kickbacks, the superseding indictment alleges. Patino was aware that his ownership structure and kickbacks were a violation of law and authored emails acknowledging that such ownership constituted a “violation of the Stark and Anti-Kickback laws” and attempted to conceal and disguise the ownership structure and scheme in order to keep himself “out of Federal Prison & having all our assets seized to pay a 15 million dollar fine.”
The superseding indictment alleges that Patino conspired to commit money laundering and committed money laundering in connection with the creation and promotion of the “Patino Diet” plan, which Patino described to others as the “next Atkins diet.” In order to conceal and disguise his illegal health care fraud scheme, Patino allegedly paid for the authorship and publication of a book touting the diet plan, entitled “The Age of Globesity,” and paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to promote the diet plan and appear as the exclusive medical expert on a nationally syndicated television show.
In addition to concealing the scheme by paying money to falsely portray himself as a media personality and a legitimate physician, the superseding indictment alleges, that Patino laundered the healthcare fraud and kickback money by entering into sham contracts or employment relationships to pay others on his behalf to sponsor boxers, mixed martial artists and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) combatants, including UFC world champions and hall of famers. The superseding indictment alleges that Patino also withdrew the proceeds derived from the conspiracy to live an extravagant lifestyle and spend money on luxury clothes, real estate and international travel, including multiple trips to the Cayman Islands.
The charges against Patino are related to a broader investigation into the Tri-County Network of pain clinics in Michigan and Ohio, which involves over $300 million in alleged Medicare fraud and the alleged distribution of over 6.6 million dosage units of controlled substances. In connection with the investigation, 22 defendants, including 12 physicians, have previously pleaded guilty or been found guilty at trial.
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
This case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG. Assistant Chief Jacob Foster and Trial Attorney Thomas Tynan of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.
The Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force. Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which maintains 15 strike forces operating in 24 districts, has charged more than 4,200 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for nearly $19 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.