Norwalk Doctor Pleads Guilty to Drug Distribution, Health Care Fraud Offenses
John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Brian D. Boyle, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration for New England, announced that Dr. BHARAT PATEL, 71, of Milford, pleaded guilty today in New Haven federal court to narcotics distribution and health care fraud offenses.
“The investigation revealed that this defendant profited by prescribing highly addictive painkillers to individuals who were either addicted to opioids, or who turned around and illegally distributed the pills they received,” said U.S. Attorney Durham. “As a result of his criminal conduct, tens of thousands of pills were dispensed to individuals who didn’t need them and shouldn’t have them. I thank the DEA’s Tactical Diversion Squad, the Norwalk Police Department and the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office for their efforts in this case, which has put a corrupt medical practice that helped fuel the opioid epidemic permanently out of business.”
“The DEA is committed to enforcing the Controlled Substance Act (CSA) by ensuring that all registrants are in compliance and abide by DEA’s distribution regulations,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Boyle. “The actions by Dr. Patel contributed to the widespread abuse of opiates, which is a gateway to heroin addiction and is devastating our communities. In response to the ongoing opioid epidemic DEA is committed to improve public safety and public health by working with our law enforcement and regulatory partners to ensure these rules and regulations are strictly followed. This investigation demonstrates the strength of collaborative law enforcement in Connecticut and our great partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”
According to court documents and statements made in court, from approximately 2011 to July 2017, PATEL was a physician operating out of Family Health Urgent Care, formerly known as Immediate Health Care, located at 235 Main Street in Norwalk. During this time, PATEL saw numerous patients who had no legitimate medical purpose to see PATEL and only came to his medical practice in order to obtain prescriptions for controlled substances, primarily hydrocodone or oxycodone. Some of those patients were enrolled in Medicaid or Medicare and paid for PATEL’s services, and had the prescriptions paid for, by those programs.
PATEL knew, and also was advised by pharmacists and his staff, that the prescriptions he was providing to his patients were medically unnecessary. For example, PATEL had patients to whom he prescribed oxycodone or hydrocodone whose urine/blood tests showed no signs of opioid ingestion. He also had patients to whom he prescribed oxycodone or hydrocodone whose urine/blood tests showed that they had other narcotics in their systems and that a prescription for oxycodone or hydrocodone would be a contraindication. PATEL ignored the warnings and continued to prescribe controlled substances to these patients outside of the usual course of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose.
On numerous occasions, PATEL wrote prescriptions to patients who paid him $100 in cash for each prescription. At times, PATEL provided patients medically unnecessary prescriptions for oxycodone or hydrocodone, which he left at a liquor store next door to his practice. Patients retrieved the prescriptions by exchanging an envelope with cash in it for the prescriptions.
In pleading guilty, PATEL admitted that he wrote hundreds of medically unnecessary prescriptions for oxycodone and hydrocodone, and received $158,523.95 as a result of this and related criminal conduct.
PATEL pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and hydrocodone, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years, and one count health care fraud, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years. He is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton on September 12, 2018.
PATEL has agreed to forfeit $158,523.95 to the government. He also agrees to forfeit and surrender his federal controlled substances registration to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
PATEL has been detained since his arrest on July 12, 2017.
This investigation is being conducted by the DEA’s New Haven Tactical Diversion Squad and the Norwalk Police Department, with the critical assistance of the Connecticut Office of the Attorney General. The DEA Tactical Diversion Squad includes officers from the Bristol, Hamden, Milford, Monroe, New Haven, Shelton, Wallingford and Wilton Police Departments.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Rahul Kale.