JAN 08 (HAMMOND, Ind.) — A physician who owned weight loss clinics in northwest Indiana and south suburban Chicago pleaded guilty to illegally dispensing millions of pills containing amphetamine-based controlled substances to patients, and he and his wife also pleaded guilty to federal tax evasion relating to their operation of the clinics, federal law enforcement officials announced today. The defendants, DR. Rakesh Anand and Meena Anand, who owned and managed Doctors Weight Loss Clinics in Merrillville, Ind., and Tinley Park and Orland Park in Illinois, also agreed to forfeiture and restitution totaling nearly $5.2 million.
Rakesh Anand, 57, a licensed physician in Indiana and Illinois, and Meena Anand, 53, both of Tinley Park, entered their guilty pleas yesterday before U.S. District Judge Joseph S. Van Bokkelen in Federal Court in Hammond. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago is handling the prosecution in the Northern District of Indiana. Judge Van Bokkelen accepted the couple’s guilty pleas to tax evasion and deferred accepting Rakesh Anand’s guilty plea to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances until sentencing, which was scheduled for March 20. The defendants remain free on bond while awaiting sentencing, but the judge yesterday added electronic monitoring to the conditions of Rakesh Anand’s release.
Rakesh Anand’s plea agreement contemplates an advisory federal sentencing guidelines range of 46 to 57 months in prison, while Meena Anand’s plea agreement contemplates a range of 30 to 37 months. Tax evasion carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, as well as mandatory costs of prosecution. Defendants convicted of tax offenses also remain civilly liable to the Government for any and all back taxes and a civil fraud penalty of up to 75 percent of the underpayment plus interest. Rakesh Anand also faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine for conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. On both counts, the court may impose an alternative fine totaling twice the gross gain or loss resulting from the crimes, whichever is greater.
As part of their plea agreements, the Anands agreed to pay restitution of $745,872 to the Internal Revenue Service for taxes they owed on nearly $2 million of unreported income between 2005 and 2008. The restitution is to be paid from funds frozen in a brokerage account when the Anands were indicted in August 2011. In addition, they agreed to forfeit more than $4.45 million in additional funds that were frozen or seized during the investigation, bringing to nearly $5.2 million the total amount of funds being applied to forfeiture and restitution.
Rakesh Anand admitted that between January 2002 and February 2010, he and another physician, Dr. Dinesh Saraiya, purchased and dispensed more than 1 million pills containing Phendimetrazine, a Schedule III controlled substance, and more than 3 million pills containing Phentermine, a Schedule IV controlled substance, and the Anands grossed more than $5 million from their operation of the three weight loss clinics.
(Saraiya, 75, of Tinley Park, cooperated in the case and is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty in Federal Court in Chicago to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.)
According to Rakesh Anand’s plea agreement, between 2002 and February 2010, he hired Saraiya, who agreed with him to illegally dispense the amphetamine-based controlled substances as weight loss medications to patients without performing physical examinations or any medical tests, and without reviewing patients’ records, obtaining a complete medical history, or providing any subsequent monitoring. In return, Rakesh Anand paid Saraiya based on how many patients he saw and how many pills he dispensed to patients on a daily basis. In dispensing the medications, Rakesh Anand and Saraiya failed to determine whether patients had first made a reasonable effort to lose weight through diet and exercise, a prerequisite to prescribing controlled substances for weight loss. In some instances, Rakesh Anand employed clerks to dispense the controlled substances even though he was not present and had not consulted with them.
During the course of the investigation, several undercover law enforcement agents, including two with slight builds and body mass indexes well below the obesity level, purchased controlled substances at the clinics without any of the appropriate medical protocols.
The guilty pleas were announced by Gary S. Shapiro, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, the Food and Drug Administration and the Indiana State Police.
The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew Schneider, Diane Berkowitz, and Orest Szewciw.