Indian-American doctor in Connecticut pleads guilty to drug distribution, health care fraud

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Connecticut – Dr. Bharat Patel, 71, of Milford, Connecticut, pleaded guilty at the New Haven federal court June 25, to narcotics distribution and health care fraud offenses.

In pleading guilty, Patel admitted that he wrote hundreds of medically unnecessary prescriptions for oxycodone and hydrocodone, and received $158,523.95 as a result of this and related criminal conduct, a press release from the U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut, said.

The Indian-American physician, who has been detained since his arrest on July 12, 2017, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and hydrocodone, an offense that carries a maximum 20 years sentence, and one count health care fraud, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years.  He is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton on September 12.

Patel has agreed to forfeit $158,523.95 to the government.  He also agreed to forfeit and surrender his federal controlled substances registration to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“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,” U.S. Attorney for Connecticut John Durham, is quoted saying in the press release.  “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.”

The case is being prosecuted by Indian-American Assistant U.S. Attorney Rahul Kale.

DEA Special Agent in Charge Brian D. 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.”

According to court documents and statements made in court, from approximately 2011 to July 2017, Patel was a physician operating out of Family Health Urgent Care, formerly known as Immediate Health Care, located on Main Street in Norwalk.  During this time, he saw numerous patients who had no legitimate medical purpose to see Patel and only came to his medical practice in order to obtain prescriptions for controlled substances, primarily hydrocodone or oxycodone, the press release says.  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.

Patel knew, and also was advised by pharmacists and his staff, that the prescriptions he was providing to his patients were medically unnecessary, prosecutors contended.  On numerous occasions, the Indian-American doctor wrote prescriptions to patients who paid him $100 in cash for each prescription.  At times, he provided patients medically unnecessary prescriptions for oxycodone or hydrocodone, which he left at a liquor store next door to his practice, according to prosecutors.  Patients retrieved the prescriptions by exchanging an envelope with cash in it for the prescriptions, the press release said.

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