Ohio Doctor Pleads Guilty to Unlawful Distribution of Opioids
An Ohio physician who owned a Dayton-area medical practice pleaded guilty today for illegally distributing opioids.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney David DeVillers of the Southern District of Ohio, Special Agent in Charge Keith Martin of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Detroit Division, Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Chicago Regional Office and Special Agent in Charge William C. Hoffman of the FBI’s Cincinnati Field Office made the announcement.
Morris Brown, M.D. 75, of Dayton, pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful distribution of controlled substances before U.S. District Judge Walter Rice of the Southern District of Ohio. Brown is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Rice on May 8.
As part of his guilty plea, Brown admitted that he prescribed controlled substances to patients in amounts and for lengths of time that were outside the scope of legitimate medical practice. Brown also admitted that he routinely prescribed controlled substances to patients even though various “red flags” suggested that he should stop writing those prescriptions, change the prescriptions and/or counsel patients accordingly. Further, Brown admitted that he prescribed dangerous combinations of drugs known to heighten the risk of overdose and death.
Brown owned the building in which his practice operated, and leased space in the building to a pharmacy named Dayton Pharmacy through which the vast majority of his prescriptions were filled. Brown admitted to distributing approximately 73.5 kilograms of opioids by converted drug weight.
Brown no longer maintains a DEA registration.
Brown was charged along with Ismail Abuhanieh, 50, of Phoenix, Arizona; Mahmoud Elmiari, 44, of Bellbrook, Ohio; Yohannes Tinsae, 48, of Beavercreek, Ohio; and Mahmoud Rifai, 50, of Detroit, Michigan in April 2019. All four of Brown’s co-defendants were charged for their roles in agreeing to obtain controlled substances for Dayton Pharmacy by fraud or misrepresentation. Elmiari and Tinsae have entered guilty pleas and are scheduled for sentencing on May 13, 2020. Abuhanieh is scheduled for a change of plea on March 10, 2020. Rifai is the subject of an active arrest warrant.
All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The DEA, FBI, HHS-OIG, Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation and Ohio Board of Pharmacy investigated the case. Trial Attorneys Chris Jason, Tom Tynan and Leslie Garthwaive of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.
The Fraud Section leads the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force. Since its inception in October 2018, the ARPO Strike Force, which operates in 10 districts, has charged more than 70 defendants who are collectively responsible for distributing more than 40 million pills. The Health Care Fraud Unit, in general, maintains 15 strike forces operating in 24 districts, and has charged nearly 4,200 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $15 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
Individuals who believe that they may be a victim in this case should visit the Fraud Section’s Victim Witness website for more information.
The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice. Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.