Former owner of Chicago medical clinic guilty of selling opioid prescriptions to patients who lacked medical need for the drugs
CHICAGO - The former owner of a Chicago medical clinic admitted in federal court today that he sold opioid prescriptions to patients whom he knew lacked a legitimate medical need for the drugs.
MOHAMMED SHARIFF, who owned Midtown Medical Center in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, conspired with a physician to sell oxycodone, hydrocodone, and other medications to patients whom they knew lacked a medical reason for taking the drugs, according to a plea agreement filed today in U.S. District Court in Chicago. At Shariff’s direction, the physician, Dr. Theodore Galvani, wrote prescriptions for the powerful opioids without conducting an appropriate physical examination or performing any medical tests, the plea agreement states. Dr. Galvani often met with more than 70 patients per day, sometimes seeing them in groups of two or more at the same time, the plea agreement states. At Shariff’s direction, a “crew leader” often organized groups of people to see Dr. Galvani and obtain opioid prescriptions from him, the plea agreement states.
Shariff, 68, of Lincolnwood, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to knowingly dispense controlled substances outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose. The charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a maximum fine of $1 million. U.S. District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber set sentencing for March 19, 2019.
Dr. Galvani, of Spring Grove, previously pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy charges. He is awaiting sentencing.
Shariff’s guilty plea was announced by Brian McKnight, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Jeffrey Sallet, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Gabriel L. Grchan, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago; and Lamont Pugh III, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Peter M. Flanagan and Andrew C. Erskine.
According to Shariff’s plea agreement, individuals paid $100 to $200 in cash to Shariff and Galvani in exchange for the improper prescriptions. For individuals insured by Medicare, Shariff and Dr. Galvani prescribed the opioids and then submitted or caused others to submit false claims to Medicare, seeking reimbursement for purported office visits with those individuals, the plea agreement states. From February 2012 to March 2013, Shariff and Dr. Galvani received a total of at least $584,188 through the improper prescription scheme, the plea agreement states. Shariff admitted that he personally kept at least $292,094 as his share of the proceeds. Shariff further admitted that, during the same period of time, he and Dr. Galvani together were responsible for prescribing more than two kilograms of oxycodone, more than 595,000 hydrocodone pills, and more than 190,000 alprazolam pills (commonly known as Xanax), to individuals whom they knew had no legitimate medical need for those drugs.
In addition to the improper prescriptions, Shariff admitted in his plea agreement that he attempted to carry out a separate fraud scheme involving a home health care company that he owned, Elgin-based Home Health Resource LLC. In a May 2016 meeting in Chicago, Shariff offered to pay an unidentified physician $500 each time the doctor certified a Medicare beneficiary as eligible for home health care and referred the patient to Shariff’s company, the plea agreement states. Unbeknownst to Shariff, the doctor was cooperating with law enforcement, and their conversation was surreptitiously recorded. During the meeting, Shariff claimed that he arranged for his home health company’s employees to conceal the fact that their clients were not truly eligible for home health services. Shariff told the cooperating physician that he instructed nurses at the company to “tell the patient you are homebound,” and that “when the doctor come, don’t say that you go out and drive and this and that. Don’t tell anybody you drive, don’t tell anybody you’re taking the bus, even going to the groceries. If anybody asks, ‘I stay home. I’m homebound.’”