A 71-year-old doctor from Connecticut pleaded guilty on Monday, June 25 to federal narcotics distribution and health care fraud charges.
Bharat Patel of Milford entered his plea in U.S. District Court in New Haven, according to John H. Durham, U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Brian D. Boyle, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for New England.
In pleading guilty, Patel admitted that he wrote hundreds of medically unnecessary prescriptions for oxycodone and hydrocodone, and received nearly $159,000 as a result, according to Durham.
According to court documents and statements made in court, from 2011 to July 2017, Patel was a physician operating out of Family Health Urgent Care, formerly known as Immediate Health Care, at 235 Main St. in Norwalk.
“The investigation revealed that this defendant profited by prescribing highly addictive painkillers to individuals who were either addicted to opioids, or who turned around and illegally distributed the pills they received,” Durham said. “As a result of his criminal conduct, tens of thousands of pills were dispensed to individuals who didn’t need them and shouldn’t have them."
Durham thanked the DEA’s Tactical Diversion Squad, the Norwalk Police Department and the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office for their efforts in this case, "which has put a corrupt medical practice that helped fuel the opioid epidemic permanently out of business.”
The DEA's Boyle said: “The actions by Dr. Patel contributed to the widespread abuse of opiates, which is a gateway to heroin addiction and is devastating our communities."
Patel allegedly saw numerous patients who had no legitimate medical purpose to see him and only came to his medical practice in order to obtain prescriptions for controlled substances, primarily hydrocodone or oxycodone, federal officials said. It's also alleged that some of those patients were enrolled in Medicaid or Medicare and paid for Patel's services, and had the prescriptions paid for by those programs.
According to Durham's office, Patel wrote prescriptions to patients who paid him $100 in cash for each prescription. At times, Patel provided patients medically unnecessary prescriptions for oxycodone or hydrocodone, which he left at a liquor store next door to his practice. Patients allegedly retrieved the prescriptions by exchanging an envelope with cash in it for the prescriptions.
Patel pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and hydrocodone, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years, and one count health care fraud, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 12.
Patel has agreed to forfeit $158,523.95 to the government. He also agrees to forfeit and surrender his federal controlled substances registration to the DEA.
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