Michigan physician charged in $120M fraud scheme involving sponsorship of UFC fighters

A physician in Michigan was charged Feb. 26 in a $120 million healthcare fraud and money laundering scheme that allegedly involved the illegal distribution of controlled substances and unnecessary injections that caused patient harm, according to the Department of Justice.

Francisco Patino, MD, who operated several pain clinics and laboratories in Michigan, was charged in a superseding indictment with conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He was previously charged with healthcare fraud and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. by paying and receiving healthcare kickbacks.

According to the indictment, Dr. Patino got patients to come to his clinics by offering unnecessary prescriptions for addictive opioids. From 2008 until his arrest in 2018, Dr. Patino allegedly prescribed more than 2.2 million dosage units of medically unnecessary controlled substances.

Prosecutors allege that Dr. Patino forced patients to get unnecessary and painful back injections in exchange for opioid prescriptions as part of the Medicare fraud scheme. He also allegedly ordered unnecessary urine drug testing in exchange for illegal kickbacks.

Dr. Patino allegedly tried to conceal the healthcare fraud scheme by paying for the authorship and publication of a diet plan book. He also allegedly paid to appear as a medical expert on a nationally syndicated television show and for the sponsorship of boxers and prominent Ultimate Fighting Championship hall of famers, according to the Justice Department.

The charges against Dr. Patino are related to a broader $300 million Medicare fraud scheme that allegedly involved the distribution of more than 6.6 million dosage units of controlled substances. That investigation has resulted in 22 people, including 12 physicians, pleading guilty or being found guilty at trial.

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