US:Indian-American gets 17 yr jail term for healthcare fraud

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Detroit, Feb 3: An Indian-American who ran as many as 26 pharmacies here has been sentenced to 17 years of imprisonment for perpetrating a massive healthcare fraud.

"What you have done is reprehensible," US District Judge Arthur J Tarnow told Babubhai "Bob" Patel yesterday and noted that the violations by other persons convicted of similar crimes were "small scale compared to this."

Patel was arrested in Aug 2011. Exactly 12 months later, a jury held him guilty of billing the government for painkillers worth 57 million dollars even though a quarter of them were medically unnecessary and in some instances were not given to the patients at all.

According to the Justice Department, Patel bribed doctors to write prescriptions for expensive medicines. Physicians involved in the fraud often prescribed controlled substances. Most of these prescriptions were filled at pharmacies owned by Patel and then handed over to paid "patients" and those responsible for recruiting such patients.

The recruiters convinced poor patients to reveal their Medicaid or Medicare number by paying them cash. However, certain non-controlled medicines which cost a lot were never dispensed.

Private insurers were billed huge amounts too. Patel must therefore pay 1.5 million dollars to one of the affected organisations Blue Cross Blue Shield, the court ordered. Medicaid and Medicare are to similarly receive 17.3 million dollars as restitution from the 50 year-old.

Reacting to the verdict, US Attorney Barbara L McQuade pointed out that "Taxpayers fund Medicare and Medicaid to provide health care to needy Americans" and added: "It is gratifying to see courts impose strong sentences on defendants who exploit these programs for personal gain."

On behalf of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Special Agent in Charge Robert D Foley said: "Those individuals who engaged in this health care fraud scheme stole millions of dollars over several years from a system designed to provide health care to those in need. The FBI is committed to stopping these illegal acts and prosecuting these criminals."

OneIndia News (with inputs from agencies) 

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