The head of a group of Michigan- and Ohio-based pain clinics and other providers will also have to pay $51 million in restitution.

Federal officials have announced a 15-year prison term for the healthcare CEO who admitted to orchestrating a massive fraud scheme resulting in more than 6.6 million doses of medically unnecessary opioids.

Mashiyat Rashid, 40, of West Bloomfield, Mich., the former CEO of the Tri-County Wellness Group of pain clinics and medical providers in Michigan and Ohio, also developed and approved a corporate policy to administer painful, unnecessary back injections to patients in exchange for the unnecessary prescriptions, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced in a press release. In addition to the prison sentence, Rashid was also ordered to pay more than $51 million in restitution to Medicare – as well as forfeiture of property traceable to proceeds of the scheme, including more than $11.5 million in cash, commercial real estate, residential real estate, and a Detroit Pistons season-ticket membership.

Rashid had pleaded guilty in 2018 to one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and wire fraud, and one count of money laundering. He was the second of 21 defendants, including 12 physicians, to be sentenced following convictions, including four physicians who were convicted after a one-month trial in 2020.

Federal officials described Rashid’s patients as some who were “suffering from legitimate pain, and others of whom were drug dealers or opioid addicts,” yet many who fit both descriptions were given prescriptions of Oxycodone 30 mg on the condition that they submit to unnecessary back injections.

“Testimony at the trial established that in some instances, the patients experienced more pain from the shots than from the pain they had purportedly come to have treated; that audible screams from patients were observed throughout the clinics; and that some patients developed adverse conditions, including open holes in their back,” the DOJ’s press release read. “Patients, including patients who were addicted to opioids, who told the doctors that they did not want, need, or benefit from the injections, were denied medication by the defendants and their co-conspirators until they agreed to submit to the expensive and unnecessary injections. The evidence further established that the defendants repeatedly performed these unnecessary injections on patients, as Tri-County was paid more for facet joint injections than any other medical clinic in the United States.”

Prosecutors said the Tri-County clinics intentionally targeted the Medicare program and recruited patients from facilities such as homeless shelters and soup kitchens. Evidence introduced at trial indicated that Rashid “only hired physicians who were willing to disregard patient care in the pursuit of money,” incentivizing them to follow the Tri-County protocol of offering opioid prescriptions and administering unnecessary injections by offering to split the Medicare reimbursements for the procedures.

A former Tri-County employee testified at the trial of Rashid’s co-defendants that the practices at the clinic were “barbaric.”

The joint investigation resulting in the charges and convictions was conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), with Assistant Chief Jacob Foster of the National Rapid Response Strike Force and Trial Attorney Tom Tynan of the DOJ Criminal Division’s Fraud Section prosecuting.

Since its inception in March 2007, federal officials noted, the Health Care Fraud Strike Force, which maintains 15 strike forces operating in 24 districts, has charged more than 4,200 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for nearly $19 billion.

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