Forty-Four Michigan and Ohio Residents Indicted in Scheme to Illegally Divert and Distribute Rx Drugs along “US-23 Pipeline”
Seven doctors, four pharmacists, among those indicted Health care fraud also charged in indictment
MAR 20 (DETROIT) –Forty-Four individuals have been charged in a health care fraud and drug distribution scheme, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced today.
McQuade was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge Robert L. Corso of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Special Agent in Charge Robert D. Foley III, of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Acting Special Agent in Charge Gilbert Salinas of the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, and Explosives, Lamont Pugh, Special Agent in Charge of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, Acting Special Agent in Charge William Hayes of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, Special Agent in Charge Erick Martinez of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Detroit Police Chief Chester Logan, and Portsmouth, Ohio, Police Chief Robert Ware, II.
The 13-count superseding indictment charges 44 new defendants with a drug conspiracy involving prescription drug controlled substances such as OxyContin, Opana, Vicodin and other drugs. Health care fraud charges were filed against 32 of the defendants, while three defendants were charged with money laundering and three defendants were charged with being felons in possession of firearms.
The superseding indictment alleges that Sardar Ashrafkhan, Deepak Kumar, John Check and David Vezzossi, owners of home health agencies, would provide kickbacks, bribes, and other illegal benefits to physicians to induce them to write prescriptions for patients with Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance. Patients were recruited into the scheme by patient recruiters or “marketers,” who would pay kickbacks and bribes to patients in exchange for the patients’ permitting the pharmacies and physicians to bill their insurance for medications and services that were medically unnecessary and/or never provided. During this conspiracy, prescriptions were presented to the Sav-Max (pharmacist Ahab Elmadhoun), Sav-Mart (pharmacist Waleed Yaghmour), Atrium (pharmacist Krina Patel and manager Sanjay Patel), or Caremax (pharmacist Jayshriben Gandhi and manager Guarang Gandhi) Pharmacies for filling. The medical professionals and health care agency owners would then bill the relevant insurers for services supposedly provided to the patients, without regard to the medical necessity of those prescriptions and services. Some of the pharmacists would bill insurers, including Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers, for dispensing the medications, despite the fact that the medications were medically unnecessary and, in many cases, never provided. Other times, the pharmacists accepted cash from the recruiters for filling and dispensing medications.
The indictment further alleges a conspiracy to distribute controlled substances by the health care owners, physicians, pharmacies, and recruiters to facilitate the submission of false claims to Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers. The home health care owners paid physicians associated with the scheme kickbacks in exchange for prescriptions for controlled substances for their patients which were filled at the respective pharmacies. The controlled substances involved included the Schedule II drug oxycodone (Oxycontin), the Schedule III drug hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab) the Schedule IV drug alprazolam (Xanax), and the Schedule V drug cough syrup with codeine.
The indictment further alleges illegal money laundering by pharmacists Waleed Yaghmour and Ahab Elmadhoun, and also by home health agency owner Sardar Ashrafkhan, a.k.a. “Dr. Khan.” The indictment further alleges individual charges of felon in possession of a firearm against marketers Toney Taylor and Troy Ivory, and home health agency owner John Stephen Check.
The 44 new defendants named in the 13-count indictment were pharmacists Krina Patel, 35, of Shelby Twp.; and office manager Sanjay Patel, 39, of Shelby Twp., Jayshriben Gandhi, 43, of Canton; and office manager Guarang Gandhi, 39, of Canton, pharmacist Ahab Elmadhoun, 40, of Canton; pharmacist Waleed Yaghmour, 46, of Dearborn; physicians Adelfo Pamatmat, 67, of Farmington Hills, physician John Geralt, 84, of Beverly Hills, physician Malik Dababneh, 53, of Oxford, physician Paul Kelly, 76, of Bath, physician Ravi Iyer, 42, of Novi, physician Muhammad Ahmed, 65, of Ypsilanti, physician assistant Timothy Spencer, 64, of Inkster, Wayne State Medical School graduate Javar Myatt-Jones, a.k.a. “Dr. Jones,” 33, of Chicago, foreign medical student Faraj Ghabag, 33, of Oregon, OH, home health agency owners Sardar Ashrafkhan, a.k.a. “Dr. Khan,” 55, of Warren, home health agency owner Deepak Kumar, 45, of Washington Twp., and his assistant Mohammad Mian, 44, of Oak Park, home health agency owner John Stephen Check, 53, of Dearborn Heights, and business partner co-owner David Vezzossi, 52, of West Bloomfield, marketer Frederick Till Jackson Sr., a.k.a. “Big Fred,” 52, of Detroit, marketer Tiffany Walker, a.k.a. “Mary Reed,” 45, of Detroit, Sierra Walker, a.k.a. “Tosha,” 25, of Detroit, marketer Toney Taylor, 44, of Detroit, marketer Jimmy Foster, 35, of Detroit, marketer James Blake, 32, of Sterling Heights, marketer Troy Ivory, 47, of Warren, marketer Jackie Renee Ivory, 32, of Ecorse, marketer Eric Hester, 40, of Ionia, marketer Felicia Jackson, 27, of Eastpointe, marketer Ayesha McCray, 30, of Detroit, marketer Jamall Gibson, 30, of Eastpointe, couriers Alfornia Johnson, a.k.a. “Con,” a.k.a “Alex,” a.k.a. “ShiCon,” 34, of Detroit, Phillip Burnett, a.k.a. “Frank,” a.k.a “Frank Burns,” 33, of Detroit, Ronnie Moses, a.k.a. “Red,” 23, of Detroit, Corey Williams, a.k.a. “CoCo,” 44, of Detroit, William Ashley Smith, a.k.a. “Cash,” of Portsmouth, OH, Robert Scott Dials, 25, of Portsmouth, OH, Cherish Lewis, 26, of Wheelersburg, OH, distributors Willie David Jackson, a.k.a. “Lil’ Dave,” 24, of Eastpointe, Lance Hatten, 29, of Columbus, OH, Josh Barnes, 33, of Wheelersburg, OH, Nathan Reed, a.k.a. “Reed,” 31, of Portsmouth, OH, and electronic transfer nominee Garland Holman, 30, of Detroit.
“The merger of health care fraud and drug trafficking is a disturbing trend that is not only robbing taxpayers, but also fueling addictions to prescription drugs,” McQuade said. “Prescription drug abuse has become a national epidemic, with more Americans dying from overdoses than from gunshot wounds.”
Robert L. Corso, Special Agent in Charge of DEA's Detroit Field Division stated, "Confronting the illegal diversion and abuse of controlled pharmaceuticals is a top priority of DEA and our law enforcement partners. The indictment alleges that this drug distribution organization includes members of the medical profession who abused their positions of trust and endangered the lives of countless people for pure profit. This was done by illegally distributing opiate painkillers and other controlled prescription medications throughout southeast Michigan and stretching to the southern reaches of Ohio. This investigation makes it clear that the DEA and our partners in law enforcement will continue to investigate and bring to justice those individuals that are responsible for the illegal distribution of prescription medicines."
Police Chief Robert Ware stated, “Portsmouth is along a corridor of U.S. Route 23 better known as the drug pipeline. The flow of drugs from Detroit to Portsmouth and to neighboring cities such as Huntington, West Virginia has changed lives and communities forever. Behind the scenes are some very dedicated, hardworking Officers, Deputies, State Troopers, Federal Agents and Prosecutors working together to bring justice to those poisoning our communities. What you have before you today is the culmination of some of those joint efforts to curb the flow of illegal drugs into our neighborhoods.”
Of the ten defendants charged in the earlier indictment, all have been convicted by pleas over the last year. Those defendants included Detroit and Ohio residents. Several have been sentenced already and others are due to be sentenced in the near future.
The investigation in this case was handled by the DEA, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol Firearms and Explosives, Detroit Police Dept., Portsmouth, Ohio, Police Dept., Scioto County Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Treasury Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement’s Department of Homeland Security Investigations, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, and the Detroit Violent Crimes Task Force and Michigan State Police. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Terrence R. Haugabook, Michael Martin, and Wayne F. Pratt. They will be assisted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jonathan Grey and Gjon Juncaj of the Forfeiture Section.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.