The Justice Department’s Criminal Division announced recently that Francisco Patino, hailing from Wayne County, Michigan, was charged for his involvement in a money-laundering conspiracy leading to a $120 million health care fraud scheme. The physician was investigated for being one of the main culprits in prescribing oxycodone, among other, similar substances, in the Michigan region, and distributed over 2.2 million dosage units of the substance along with medically unnecessary injections that led to major patient harm.
The indictment came as the physician laundered over $120 million in the prescribing of high dosages, through government agencies. The U.S. Assistant Attorney General, Brian A. Benczkowski, belonging to the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, and the U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider of the Eastern District of Michigan, along with other representatives of several law enforcement agencies investigated the case and made the announcement.
The defendant was charged for one count of conspiracy for healthcare fraud, along with wire fraud. Additionally, for one count of conspiracy for money laundering and committing money laundering. These charges came on the heel of two other counts of healthcare fraud, and one count of attempting to defraud the U.S. over healthcare kickbacks charged in the initial case of the indictment. The trial for the case occurred over Judge Hood in April 2019.
The investigation claimed that the physician used the proceeds of the healthcare fraud scheme in order to falsify a portrayal of the defendant as a real doctor, by publishing a diet book that was described as the “next Atkins”. The doctor was also part of several paid-for appearances on tv shows, boxing sponsorships and UFC consults, among others. The promotions for the diet book along with an on-the-go lifestyle were public and made to be lavish for all to see.
The allegations against Francisco Patino were that during the years 2016 till 2017, Patino was the owner of, and operated, several clinics and laboratories that prescribed Oxycodone 30 mg openly. These operations included Global Quality Inc., Patino Laboratories, and RenAMI. The previous indictment that Patino was involved with, starting in 2008 and leading to his arrest in 2018, alleged that Patino would persuade his patients to visit his clinics by offering them unnecessary prescriptions for Oxycodone, among other substances, and would get them addicted.
The prescriptions eventually reached an astounding 2.2 million dosage units of fentanyl, oxymorphone, and oxycodone, which is what led to his arrest. These opioids were prescribed to government agency beneficiaries, including Medicare, and led to several of Patino’s patients to become hopelessly addicted. Opioid abuse is one of the leading causes of healthcare deterioration in the U.S., and fentanyl is known to be one of the most potent opioids that, if not used responsibly, lead to severe addiction.
The superseding indictment also revealed that Patino would force his patients to take painful back injections along with other medical procedures in order to get the opioids that they visited him for, as his scheme to defraud Medicare. It was found that Medicare had already warned Patino about the violations and unlawful practices he was partaking in, especially the injections, and that its official stance over the prescription of opioids was recorded as being a violation of the public health code.
Furthermore, Patino had allegedly ordered urine drug testing of the patients who came to see him, in exchange for the kickbacks mentioned before. Although aware of the ownership structure he was operating under, and that the kickbacks were, in fact, in direct violation of the law, he made attempts to disguise this structure so he could not be committed in federal prison, or have to pay a fine of $15 million. The money-laundering scheme, as per the investigation, was operated in connection with the development of the Patino Diet plan, which Patino would claim is the next Atkins diet. The diet plan was promoted as a book, and Patino, in an attempt to hide the illegal health care fraud scheme, promoted his brand as being the medical expert behind the new diet plan that would appear on a nationally syndicated television show.
While he portrayed himself as a medical professional and media personality on TV, he also entered into several fake contracts and other informal relationships in order to pay others to support his sponsored boxers, mixed martial artists, and several Ultimate Fighting Championship participants. It was revealed that Patino would eventually withdraw the proceeds he had managed to derive from the aforementioned conspiracy in order to live a lavish lifestyle, often spending money unnecessarily on luxury items, real estate, and international travel. All these charges would be thoroughly investigated by the federal law enforcement agencies involved and were backed up by the paper trail left behind by Patino that led to his eventual arrest.
As per the charges laid against Patino, a further investigation was pursued into the Tri-County Network of several clinics in Michigan and Ohio. Law enforcement agencies discovered that more than $300 million were involved in Medicare fraud, along with the distribution of nearly 6.6 million dosage units of the aforementioned substances. A closer look at the investigation showed that 22 defendants had previously been found guilty in connection with this case. The individuals in connection with this investigation that had previously been found guilty included 12 physicians, which further solidified the fact that Patino worked closely and looked into the previous methods used to create this massive healthcare fraud and money laundering scheme.
This case is one of many that have recently been unfurled by federal law enforcement agencies, and many are still to reach a verdict this year as the investigations come to a close. Patino’s case may not be unique in the sense that other physicians have already schemed their way through government agencies such as Medicare, but the case garnered public attention due to his involvement in nationally syndicated TV, along with trying to portray himself as a medical expert on tv and through various other promotional activities. The lavish lifestyle, along with the promotional stunts that Patino performed during his push to make his bogus diet plan into a legitimate and medically sound project, led to the investigation and to the eventual imprisonment.
There are many cases like these that do not receive attention due to the legality of healthcare fraud. Many are under investigation right now that seem to cast a suspicious light on currently operating healthcare practices and the medical professionals involved in these operations, as the credibility of professionals takes a hit with every new case regarding healthcare fraud schemes. If you or anyone you know is in legal assistance in the same field, please feel free to call the Healthcare Fraud Group on 888-402-4054 for a free consultation.