One of two Norwalk physicians accused of writing illegal prescriptions, defrauding the state’s Medicaid program out of millions of dollars and money laundering faced a judge in Bridgeport on Wednesday.
The court granted a continuance so that the Connecticut's U.S. Attorney’s Office has more time to explore Dr. Bharat Patel’s assets. Patel owns three properties in Connecticut and a condo in Mumbai.
His attorney, Alexander Schwartz, wanted him released on a $250,000.00 bond and recommended that he be ordered to stay at home with his family, and have electronic monitoring. Federal officials are concerned Patel is a flight risk, having traveled nearly two dozen times since January of 2012.
The federal criminal complaint alleges in that time frame, Patel wrote 200 post-dated prescriptions for 32 patients, who they said received more than 12,000 narcotics pills fraudulently.
More than 50 friends, family members and patients showed up at the hearing on Wednesday, to stand in support of Patel. He’ll remain in federal lock up in Rhode Island. Schwartz has concerns with his high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and the fact he is 70 years old.
On Wednesday, Patel’s younger brother, Subhash Patel, told NBC Connecticut "I don’t believe it. He’s been accused incorrectly or wrongly. And, you know, I have been his patient since 1981. On several occasions, he already refused to give me a prescription for certain medicines. I don’t believe the charges at all."
“Just because it’s in the affidavit, doesn’t mean it’s true or accurate," Schwartz said. "The safety issue comes from the nature of the charge. Because of the drug charges, there’s the presumption that he cannot be released into the community, and I think I rebutted that well because he cannot write prescriptions for what he’s charged with prescribing."
The prosecutor stated that Patel admitted to earning $5,000 a month in writing prescriptions in this way. Also announcing a claim that the doctor’s wife knew what was going on. At the liquor store his wife once owned in the same location as the urgent care facility Patel worked at in Norwalk, the prosecutor said, prescriptions were left for patients pick up.
Federal officials located the other doctor, Dr. Ramil Mansourov, 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 last week. He was found outside a hotel in Montreal, Canada. Canadian authorities said Mansourov had a hearing and is slated to have another hearing in the coming days.
Patel, 70, of Milford, and 47-year-old Mansourov, of Darien, are accused of running this “pill mill” and selling prescriptions for drugs, including oxycodone and hydrocodone, to addicts and drug dealers.
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.
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.
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.