Detroit Area Doctors Charged with Illegal Distribution of Prescription Drugs and Health Care Fraud
An indictment was unsealed today charging Dr.Hussein “Sam” Awada, 43, and Dr. Luis Collazo, 53, with the illegal distribution of prescription drugs and health care fraud, United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced today.
McQuade was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge Robert L. Corso, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Detroit Field Division; Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh, Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General; and Special Agent in Charge,Robert D. Foley, III, Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The 68-count superseding indictment charges that from December 2010 through 2012, Dr. Awada and Dr. Collazo distributed controlled substances, including the highly addictive drugs Oxycodone, Roxicodone, andOpana ER, outside the course of usual medical practice and for no legitimate purpose. Both defendants were also charged with billing Medicare and other health insurance programs for medically unnecessary testing and procedures.
The superseding indictment alleges that Dr. Awada used recruiters, including co-defendant James Lyons, 39, to bring patients to his “Midwest Family Practice” at two locations in Warren. After ordering unnecessary medical procedures, Dr. Awada gave controlled substance prescriptions to the recruiter in exchange for cash payments. The recruiter then sold the pills for profit on the illegal street market.
The superseding indictment also charges that Dr. Awada and Dr. Collazo committed health care fraud by billing for unnecessary office visits, submitting patients brought by recruiters to medically unnecessary testing and procedures (including x-rays, nuclear cardiac stress tests, electrocardiograms, blood work, and injections), and by causing Medicare and other insurance programs to pay for unnecessary controlled substances.
According to the superseding indictment, Dr. Collazo participated in the drug diversion and health care fraud scheme while he worked for Dr. Awada at the Midwest Family Practice on 12 Mile Road in Warren.
More than $600,000 in funds and three automobiles were seized during the course of the underlying investigation. The United States will pursue forfeiture of all proceeds and property traceable to the offenses charged.
U.S. Attorney McQuade said “Health care fraud diverts taxpayer dollars from needy patients to greedy criminals. We hope that our enforcement efforts will deter other doctors from engaging in fraud."
Robert L. Corso, DEA Special Agent in Charge said, "This indictment is another example of DEA's determination to combat the troubling prescription drug abuse problem in this country. These two doctors abused their positions of trust and jeopardized the lives of many individuals by illegally distributing highly addictive opiate painkillers. The DEA and our partners in law enforcement will continue to investigate and bring to justice those individuals that are responsible for the illegal distribution of prescription medicines."
"The improper distribution of controlled substances poses a significant threat not only to the financial health of the Medicare and Medicaid programs but to the wellbeing and safety of the patients that these programs serve", said Lamont Pugh III, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General - Chicago Region. "The OIG, along with out law enforcement partners, will aggressively investigate allegations of this nature in order to protect tax payer dollars and ensure patient safety."
Robert D. Foley III, FBI Special Agent in Charge said, "These charges represent a serious abuse of the health care system. Those motivated by greed who unlawfully take from a system designed to care for patients, will be tirelessly pursued by the FBI and prosecuted for their crimes."
Dr. Collazo will be arraigned on the superseding indictment on Friday, June 21. Dr. Awada will be arraigned on Monday, June 24.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. Each defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The case was investigated by Special Agents of the DEA, HHS-OIG, and FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Wayne Pratt, Sarah Resnick Cohen and Gjon Juncaj and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Bidwell.