Two Panama City Physicians Indicted on Drug and Health Care Fraud Charges
PANAMA CITY, FLORIDA – Two Panama City physicians were arrested this morning on charges contained in a 109-count federal indictment that was unsealed today. The federal indictment, announced today by U.S. Attorney Pamela C. Marsh, charges Abdul R. Salman, 66, of Panama City, and Rudolfo B. Torres, 76, of Youngstown, with the unlawful dispensing of controlled substances and with health care fraud.
The federal grand jury charged Rudolfo Torres with 61 counts of unlawfully dispensing controlled substances, and 1 count of dispensing controlled substances resulting in the death of an individual identified in the indictment as “F.R.” Adbul Salman was charged by the grand jury with 33 counts of unlawfully dispensing controlled substances, and 1 count of dispensing controlled substances resulting in the death of an individual identified in the indictment as “R.T.” Additionally, the indictment charges Torres with 8 counts of health care fraud and Salman with 5 counts of health care fraud.
According to the indictment, Salman operated a medical business known as the Gulf Coast Walk-In Clinic, located at 3228 East 15th Street in Panama City, Florida, where both Salman and Torres practiced medicine. The indictment further alleges that Torres later had a medical practice in his home in Youngstown.
The indictment charges that Salman and Torres prescribed controlled substances to patients without sufficient medical necessity. They allegedly prescribed these substances in quantities and dosages that caused their patients to abuse, misuse, and become addicted to the drugs. The indictment further alleges that Salman and Torres prescribed controlled substances to patients knowing that the patients were addicted to and misusing these drugs, and that Salman and Torres continued to prescribe addictive controlled substances to patients even after learning that the patients had suffered overdoses on the drugs, were selling the drugs, or were “doctor shopping.”
With regard to health care fraud, the indictment alleges that Salman and Torres committed health care fraud by prescribing excessive and inappropriate quantities of controlled substances to patients outside the usual course of professional practice and causing these patients to fill prescriptions at various pharmacies. These acts resulted in Medicaid, Medicare, and Blue Cross/Blue Shield paying for medically unnecessary office visits and prescriptions.
Rudolpho Torres was arrested by federal, state, and local agents this morning in Panama City, Florida, on a federal warrant which was issued based upon the charges in the indictment. He is scheduled to make his initial court appearance on the charges at 1:30PM before Magistrate Judge Larry A. Bodiford at the U.S. District Courthouse in Panama City. An outstanding arrest warrant exists for Abdul Salman, who has not been taken into custody at this time.
If convicted of unlawfully dispensing controlled substances resulting in death, Salman and Torres each face a mandatory minimum term of 20 years imprisonment, a maximum of life imprisonment, and a fine of $1,000,000. The health care fraud counts are each punishable by up to ten years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
This indictment is the result of a joint investigation conducted by the Northwest Florida Health Care Fraud Task Force, which includes agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Drug Enforcement Administration, DEA Digital Evidence Laboratory, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Food and Drug Administration, Florida Attorney General’s Office - Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, Florida Department of Financial Services, Florida Department of Health, and the Bay County Sheriff’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Gayle E. Littleton and Katy Risinger.
An indictment is merely an allegation by a grand jury that a defendant has committed a violation of federal criminal law and is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the Government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.