Federal officials have located a Connecticut doctor accused of fleeing the country after being named a suspect in an investigation into what authorities are calling the largest ever health care fraud enforcement action by the federal Medicare Fraud Strike Force in the country.
Dr. Bharat Patel, 70, of Milford, and 47-year-old Dr. Ramil Mansourov, of Darien, are accused of running a “pill mill” and selling prescriptions for drugs, including oxycodone and hydrocodone, to addicts and drug dealers, who would then sell the drugs on the streets.
In all, 412 defendants have been charged across the country, including 115 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, for alleged participation in health care fraud schemes involving approximately $1.3 billion in false billings.
Patel was arrested at his Milford home Wednesday, has been detained and is scheduled to appear in court on July 17.
Federal authorities were searching for Mansourov, who they believed fled to Canada. He was taken into custody at a Marriott in Montreal Thursday.
The local investigation began after allegations that the two doctors might be writing prescriptions outside the scope of legitimate medical practice.
Patel and Mansourov operated out of Family Health Urgent Care, at 235 Main Street in Norwalk, which is closed until further notice.
Some of those addicts they are accused of selling to referred to the defendants’ medical practice as “The Candy Shop,” according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Patel owned the previous practice, which was known as Immediate Health Care, and sold it in 2012 to Mansourov, who renamed it, according to the United States Attorney’s Office.
Authorities said Patel regularly provided prescriptions for narcotics, including oxycodone and hydrocodone, to patients he knew were addicted or had been arrested for distributing or possessing controlled substances.
On several occasions, he sold the prescriptions to patients under the table for $100, including to some who used a state Medicaid card, then distributed the drugs, officials said.
In some instances, Patel wrote prescriptions for people who were not his patients in exchange for cash, federal officials said, and Mansourov provided Patel’s patients with unnecessary prescriptions.
In 2014 alone, more than $50,000 in cash was deposited into Patel and his wife’s bank accounts and some of that money went to buy the house Patel currently lives in, according to federal authorities.
These two doctors are charged with violating their oaths and recklessly prescribing highly addictive painkillers,” U.S. Attorney Deidre Daly said in a statement. “Dr. Patel is alleged to have regularly sold to addicts solely for his own profit. Many of these patients filled the prescriptions using state healthcare benefits, and then turned around and sold the pills on the street, contributing to our devastating opioid epidemic.”
Mansourov is accused of defrauding the state’s Medicaid program of more than $4 million between November 2013 and December 2016 and moving some of that money to a bank account in Switzerland.
He is accused of billing for home visits he never made, billing for nursing home visits he never made, billing for office visits that never happened and billing for visits that he claimed took place on dates on which he was actually out of state or out of the country, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“Too many trusted medical professionals like doctors, nurses, and pharmacists have chosen to violate their oaths and put greed ahead of their patients,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement about the nationwide crackdown.
“Amazingly, some have made their practices into multimillion dollar criminal enterprises. They seem oblivious to the disastrous consequences of their greed. Their actions not only enrich themselves often at the expense of taxpayers but also feed addictions and cause addictions to start. The consequences are real: emergency rooms, jail cells, futures lost, and graveyards. While today is a historic day, the Department's work is not finished. In fact, it is just beginning. We will continue to find, arrest, prosecute, convict, and incarcerate fraudsters and drug dealers wherever they are,” Sessions added.