Insurance Fraud NEWS
Michigan docs flee the U.S. after alleged $500M scam busted
December 12, 2018, Detroit, MI
More than a dozen doctors and medical professionals charged with federal crimes locally have fled the country in recent years amid a federal crackdown on illegal opioid use and health care fraud.
Prosecutors used the fugitive status of 16 medical professionals who have fled since 2011 to keep Dr. Rajendra Bothra jailed Wednesday while he awaits trial in a nearly $500 million conspiracy, one of the largest health care fraud cases in U.S. history.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Mona Majzoub cited the Bloomfield Hills doctor's lies, ties to India and riches, including overseas bank accounts filled with $3 million, before refusing to release Bothra on bond.
"I believe there is clear evidence that this defendant poses a risk of flight," Majzoub said, triggering loud sobs from Bothra's daughter, who was adopted from Mother Teresa's orphanage in India.
The medical professionals who have fled for overseas destinations including Jordan, Pakistan and Egypt in recent years have two things in common: foreign ties and big bank accounts that have financed flights from justice. In Bothra’s case, he has eight siblings in India and amassed a $35 million fortune and vast-real estate holdings, including a $1.99 million island estate.
An island estate owned by Dr. Rajendra Bothra in Waterford Township is for sale for $1.99 million. (Video: YouTube)
Federal court records shed light on some of the fugitives who used fake names, overseas bank accounts and illegal border crossings during daring escapes that left behind prosecutors, frustrated judges and severed GPS tethers.
“If history shows us anything, defendants similar to Dr. Bothra don’t stick around to have a court determine their fate,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandy McMillion told the judge. “This is, in large part, because of the charges they face and the significant penalties that come with those charges if convicted.”
The federal court system in southeast Michigan historically has had among the highest rates in the nation for the number of federal criminal defendants released on bond. But the court system ranks below the national average for the number of defendants who fail to appear in court.
Last year, 15 people, or 1.2 percent of the more than 1,200 defendants on bond in the Eastern District of Michigan, failed to appear, according to court statistics.
When defendants flee, the U.S. Marshals Service launches investigations that can become complicated when people hide in countries that lack diplomatic ties with the U.S.
"We just don’t forget about them," Deputy U.S. Marshal Robert Watson said. "We continue to monitor them and have mechanisms in place if they come back into the U.S. or move to extraditable countries."
Bothra is facing health care fraud and drug charges that could send him to federal prison for more than 20 years — a potential death sentence for the 77-year-old, who owns Pain Center USA in Warren and Eastpointe, and Interventional Pain Center in Warren.
Bothra and five other doctors are accused of cheating Medicare, Medicaid and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan by billing $464 million during what prosecutors say was a scheme that ran from 2013 until last month.
During that time, the doctors forced patients to undergo painful medical procedures in exchange for illegally receiving more than 13 million doses of prescription pain medication, including OxyContin, Vicodin, hydrocodone and Percocet, the government alleges.
"The volume of patients and severity of damage ... to these patients is beyond comprehension," Majzoub, the magistrate judge, said Wednesday.
Yet, Bothra almost was released on bond.
His hearing spanned two days and was delayed as lawyers studied whether the doctor could be released on a surety bond that would be forfeited to the government if Bothra bolted from the U.S.
Majzoub scrapped the idea Wednesday after learning a surety bond was not possible without a conviction.
Most of Bothra’s bank accounts and money have been frozen, his lawyer Thomas Cranmer argued late Wednesday.
But not all.
He has access to one retirement account — court records indicate it is worth $7.6 million — his lawyer said.
Bothra’s defense mounted another bid for bond late Wednesday, offering to ensure the retirement fund is used for “solely legitimate purposes.”
Doctors and medical professionals with clean criminal records and deep ties to the region are more likely to be good candidates for bond, but a review of cases shows prosecutors also focus on a defendant’s overseas ties and ability to finance an escape.
“If I had no money and go, ‘here’s an idea, why don’t I flee to someplace that doesn’t extradite, like in the Middle East or, maybe, Pakistan?’ That isn’t much of a plan,” said Wayne Pratt, chief of the health care fraud unit at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroi
Source: The Detroit News