On Thursday, December 10, 2020, the Department of Justice issued a press release regarding the sentencing of a Texas clinic owner and employee to 20 years and 8 years in prison, respectively, for their roles in a pill mill scheme. 

The clinic owner, Baker Niazi, pled guilty in April 2018 to conspiracy to unlawfully distribute and dispense controlled substances.  The clinic employee, Muhammad Arif, posed as the clinic’s physician and was found guilty at trial.  According to the trial evidence, Niazi owned and operated Aster Medical Clinic from September 2015 through February 2016, and hired Arif, who was not licensed to practice medicine in the United States.  Arif would see patients and write illegal prescriptions on a prescription pad that was pre-signed by a co-conspiring licensed physician.  Aster Medical Clinic would see over 40 people on busy days and charged $250 (in cash) per visit, according to the press release.  The government also notes in the press release that people posed as patients to obtain prescriptions for controlled substances to divert onto the black market. 

Based on the scheme, the government contends that Aster Medical Clinic dispensed over 200,000 dosage units of hydrocodone and over 145,000 dosage units of carisoprodol, the combination of which has no known medical benefit.  The government did not indicate the number of patients illegally prescribed both medications.  For his role in this scheme, Niazi was sentenced to 240 months (20 years) in prison.  He was also ordered to pay a $500,000 fine and to forfeit $493,000.  Arif was convicted of one count of conspiracy to unlawfully distribute and dispense controlled substances, and three counts of unlawfully distributing and dispensing controlled substances.  Arif was sentenced to 96 months (8 years) in prison and ordered to forfeit $11,423.11.  An unnamed co-conspirator also pled guilty for his role and is awaiting sentencing.   

This case is another example of the federal government utilizing cross-agency collaborations and resources, the prevalence of which CG attorneys recently discussed.  The press release also noted that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is working with the HHS’ Office of Inspector General to “increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.”  The press release can be read in its entirety here. 

The attorneys at Chilivis Grubman represent both companies and individuals in connection with criminal and civil government investigations, particularly those related to allegations of healthcare fraud and abuse.  If you have any questions related to such matters, please contact us today.