A federal jury in the Eastern District of Michigan convicted a Michigan doctor today for his role in masterminding and executing a complex scheme to defraud Medicare and other health insurance programs by administering medically unnecessary spinal injections in exchange for prescriptions of high doses of opioids to patients.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Francisco Patino, 66, of Wayne County, excessively prescribed highly addictive opioids to his patients at his medical clinic in Livonia. In exchange for opioids, these patients would receive (or be billed as if they had received) facet joint or nerve block injections, both lucrative spinal injections. Although these spinal injections were purportedly intended to treat chronic pain, evidence at trial demonstrated that Patino injected patients without regard to medical necessity. Evidence also revealed that if patients refused to accept the injections, Patino would withhold their prescriptions for opioids. From January 2012 through July 2017, Patino billed Medicare for more of these injections than any provider in the country. The evidence at trial also showed that in 2016 and 2017, Patino prescribed more 30-milligram Oxycodone pills than every other provider in the state of Michigan.

Patino also developed illegal kickback relationships with at least one diagnostic laboratory, under which he was paid in exchange for referring his patients’ samples to that lab. The evidence showed that the labs funneled money into bank accounts held by others, who then distributed the money to Patino or spent it on his behalf. Patino also spent funds he derived from these various schemes on jewelry, cars, and vacations. A sizable portion of Patino’s fraud proceeds were devoted toward the promotion of Patino’s specialized diet program and lifestyle and wellness book. Patino paid Ultimate Fighting Championship and other mixed martial arts fighters to promote the Patino Diet.

Patino was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, two counts of health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and pay and receive health care kickbacks, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and one count of money laundering. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 20, 2022, and faces a maximum total penalty of life in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Assistant Director Calvin Shivers of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division; and Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) made the announcement.

The FBI’s Detroit Field Office and HHS-OIG investigated the case.

Trial Attorneys Steven Scott and Kathleen Cooperstein of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.

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Author: Editor
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