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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Pharmacist Patel sentenced to 17 years for painkiller billing

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Date: Thu, May 23, 2013 at 3:44 AM
Subject: [FunOnTheNet] Canton, Michigan, pharmacist Patel sentenced to 17 years for painkiller billing
Canton, Michigan, USA pharmacist Patel
sentenced to 17 years for painkiller billing scam
By Tresa Baldas

Detroit Free Press Staff Writer
Babubhai Patel
Babubhai Patel
A Canton pharmacist, described by friends and family as a gentle man and pillar in the Indian community, is going to
prison for 17 years for running what prosecutors called one of the biggest painkiller billing scams in Michigan history.
Babubhai (Bob) Patel, 50, who owned and operated 26 pharmacies across metro Detroit, was sentenced in U.S. District Court today,
five months after a jury convicted him of billing the government for more than $57 million for painkillers that were medically unnecessary or never provided. Patel did this, authorities said, by paying kickbacks and bribes to doctors to write phony prescriptions,
which were then filled through his pharmacies. He also paid kickbacks to patients who agreed to let their insurers be billed for the drugs.
"What you have done is reprehensible," U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow told Patel at sentencing.
In addition to prison time, Patel also was ordered to pay $17.3 million in restitution to the Medicaid and Medicare programs,
and another $1.5 million in restitution to Blue Cross Blue Shield.
"It is gratifying to see courts impose strong sentences on defendants who exploit these programs for
personal gain," U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said.
Prior to his trial, Patel had pleaded with Tarnow numerous times to let him remain free on bond. Several of his friends and
 relatives also pleaded with the judge to keep Patel out of jail, some even offering their homes as collateral to ensure that he would not flee.
But, prosecutors successfully fought to keep Patel locked up, arguing he was a flight risk who had access to at least
 $12 million in hidden assets. They also said that Patel had been funneling big chunks of money to secret accounts in India,
where, they believed, he would likely flee and live comfortably.

Prosecutors also said they had wiretap evidence in which Patel is heard talking about bribing officials, eliminating a
co-conspirator and planting heroin on an individual who interfered with his billing scheme to get that person in trouble.
One phone conversation in particular stunned the prosecution.

"We have heard him laugh hysterically with a pharmacist about a patient who had died from an overdose,
                " Assistant U.S. Attorney John Neal said at a 2011 detention hearing, noting the conversation was not in English.                                             
"The interpreters were appalled at the callousness."
Patel, however, argued that the government was way off, as did his friends, family, business leaders and his lawyer.
"Mr. Patel is not a portrait of the common criminal or drifter, " Patels' lawyer, Martin Crandall, wrote in court documents.
Patels' son, Anish, 17, also defended his father in a letter to the judge, stating: "He has never run away from responsibilities and
 he will not leave my mom, brother or me. Without my dad, we cannot survive, and I know that he realizes this and he knows that we need him."
Patel is one of 26 defendants charged in the original indictment in this case. Earlier this week, three pharmacists were each sentenced to 68 months in prison for their roles in the billing scheme and will be deported to their native countries after they complete their sentences.
Of the 26 original defendants, 20 have either pleaded guilty or been convicted at trial. Six are awaiting trial in June.
"The conduct that occurred in this case was deplorable, inexcusable and dangerous" said Lamont Pugh III, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Region of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Inspector General.
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