Norwalk Doctor Sentenced to 54 Months in Prison for Drug Distribution and 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 BHARAT PATEL, 71, of Milford, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton in New Haven to 54 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, for drug distribution and health care fraud offenses.
“A lengthy prison term is appropriate for any physician who abandons his oath and profits by selling prescriptions for opioids, by overprescribing these highly addictive drugs to patients – many of whom illegally distributed the drugs they received, and by defrauding our healthcare system,” said U.S. Attorney Durham. “This doctor’s criminal conduct contributed to the ongoing opioid epidemic as tens of thousands of narcotic 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 excellent investigative efforts in this case.”
“The reckless action by Dr. Patel is not only a violation of the Controlled Substance Act but a betrayal of the public trust,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Boyle. “Today’s sentence not only holds Dr. Patel accountable for his crimes, but serves as a warning to those who are fueling the opioid epidemic in order to profit and destroy people’s lives. DEA pledges to work with our law enforcement and regulatory partners to ensure that these rules and regulations are followed.”
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.
PATEL wrote hundreds of medically unnecessary prescriptions for oxycodone and hydrocodone, and received $158,523.95 as a result of this and related criminal conduct. He has forfeited this money to the government.
PATEL has been detained since his arrest on July 12, 2017. On June 25, 2018, he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and hydrocodone, and one count health care fraud.
PATEL has surrendered his federal controlled substances registration to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
This investigation was 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.