A Norwalk doctor has been sentenced to four and a half years in prison on drug distribution and health care fraud charges after what authorities have called the largest ever health care fraud enforcement action by the federal Medicare Fraud Strike Force in the country.
Dr. Bharat Patel, 71, of Milford, Connecticut, was convicted of running a “pill mill” and selling prescriptions for drugs, including oxycodone and hydrocodone, to addicts and drug dealers, who would then sell the drugs on the streets. He was sentenced to 54 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release, according to the Connecticut U.S Attorney's office.
The charges were connected to a nationwide opioid and healthcare fraud crackdown. Hundreds of defendants were charged across the country, including doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, for alleged participation in health care fraud schemes involving over $1 billion in false billings.
The local investigation began after allegations that two doctors might be writing prescriptions outside the scope of legitimate medical practice.
Patel and a partner, Dr. Ramil Mansourov, operated out of Family Health Urgent Care, at 235 Main Street in Norwalk.
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.
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 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 was also charged and pleaded guilty to health care fraud and money laundering offenses earlier this year. He is scheduled for sentencing on Dec. 5.