Chicago Medical Clinic Owner Gets Six Years Prison for Selling Opioids to Patients Illegally
CHICAGO — The former owner of a Chicago medical clinic was sentenced today to more than six years in federal prison for selling opioid prescriptions to patients whom he knew lacked a legitimate medical need for the drugs.
MOHAMMED SHARIFF, who owned Midtown Medical Center in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, conspired with a physician to sell oxycodone, hydrocodone, and other medications to patients whom they knew lacked a medical reason for taking the drugs. At Shariff’s direction, the physician, DR. THEODORE GALVANI, wrote prescriptions for the powerful opioids without conducting an appropriate physical examination or performing any medical tests. Dr. Galvani often met with more than 70 patients per day, sometimes seeing them in groups of two or more at the same time. At Shariff’s direction, a “crew leader” organized groups of people to obtain opioid prescriptions from Dr. Galvani, often leading to long lines that stretched beyond the clinic’s door.
Shariff, 68, of Lincolnwood, pleaded guilty last year to one count of conspiracy to knowingly dispense controlled substances outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose. U.S. District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber imposed a 75-month sentence in federal court in Chicago.
Dr. Galvani, of Spring Grove, previously pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy charges. He is awaiting sentencing.
Shariff’s sentence was announced by Brian McKnight, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Jeffrey Sallet, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Tara Sullivan, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago; and Lamont Pugh III, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.
“This announcement sends a clear message to the medical professionals who exploit their power, prey on the vulnerable, and violate controlled substance laws: you will be investigated and held accountable to the fullest extent,” said DEA SAC McKnight. “It also highlights the significance of federal law enforcement and prosecutors working together.”
“The defendant chose to make his living in a vitally important industry,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter M. Flanagan argued in the government’s sentencing memorandum. “Rather than devote himself to people in need of fundamental care, however, he showed an abject disregard of patients and perverted his companies into engines of unlawful profit.”
According to Shariff’s plea agreement, individuals paid $100 to $200 in cash to Shariff and Galvani in exchange for the improper prescriptions. For individuals insured by Medicare, Shariff and Dr. Galvani prescribed the opioids and then submitted or caused others to submit false claims to Medicare, seeking reimbursement for purported office visits with those individuals, the plea agreement states. From February 2012 to March 2013, Shariff and Dr. Galvani received a total of at least $584,188 through the improper prescription scheme. During the same period, the pair was responsible for prescribing more than two kilograms of oxycodone, more than 595,000 hydrocodone pills, and more than 190,000 alprazolam pills (commonly known as Xanax), to individuals whom they knew had no legitimate medical need for those drugs.
In addition to the improper prescriptions, Shariff attempted to carry out a separate fraud scheme involving a home health care company that he owned, Elgin-based Home Health Resource LLC. In a May 2016 meeting in Chicago, Shariff offered to pay a physician $500 each time the doctor certified a Medicare beneficiary as eligible for home health care and referred the patient to Shariff’s company. Unbeknownst to Shariff, the physician was cooperating with law enforcement, and their conversation was surreptitiously recorded. Shariff told the cooperating physician that Shariff instructed nurses at the company to “tell the patient you are homebound,” and that “when the doctor come, don’t say that you go out and drive and this and that. Don’t tell anybody you drive, don’t tell anybody you’re taking the bus, even going to the groceries. If anybody asks, ‘I stay home. I’m homebound.’”
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