Detroit-Area Physician Pleads Guilty to Medicare Fraud

Ken Terry

October 09, 2017

Medicare fraud, including the inappropriate prescribing of controlled substances, has become an area of increased focus for federal law enforcement. The latest indication of that is the case of Abdul Haq, MD, 72, of Ypsilanti, Michigan, who recently pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud for his role in a $19 million scheme that involved three Detroit-area providers.

Dr Haq admitted in a federal district court that he conspired with the owner of the Tri-County Network, Mashiyat Rashid, and his co-defendants and others to prescribe medically unnecessary controlled substances, including oxycodone, hydrocodone, and Opana (Endo Pharmaceuticals), to Medicare patients. He further admitted that Rashid directed him and other physicians to require Medicare beneficiaries to undergo medically unnecessary facet joint injections if they wished to obtain prescriptions for controlled substances.

Dr Haq also referred Medicare beneficiaries to home health agencies, laboratories, and diagnostic providers for medically unnecessary services. He served as the "straw owner" of pain clinics that Rashid owned or controlled, and he submitted fraudulent enrollment materials to Medicare that failed to disclose Rashid's ownership.

Altogether, Dr Haq admitted that he submitted or caused the submission of false claims worth $19,322,846 to Medicare. His six alleged co-conspirators are awaiting trial.

The case was investigated by the FBI, the IRS, and the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). An attorney from the fraud section of the Justice Department is prosecuting the case. The fraud section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, a joint initiative of Justice and HHS.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Strike Force has charged over 3500 defendants who have collectively falsely billed the Medicare program for over $12.5 billion, the Justice Department said.

In July, the Medicare Strike Force arrested 412 people in more than 20 states, including about 50 physicians. Nearly a third of those arrested were accused of opioid-related crimes, which US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made a priority.

The healthcare providers allegedly billed Medicare and Medicaid for drugs that were never purchased; collected money for false rehabilitation treatments and tests; and gave out prescriptions for cash, according to the New York Times.

In the same sweep, a Queens, New York, cardiologist was arrested and charged with engaging in kickback schemes with medical diagnostic facilities to which he referred business, the Times said.

Sentencing for Dr Haq has been scheduled for May 29, 2018. 

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