Hamilton pain clinic doctor pleads guilty to running pill mill
CINCINNATI – The owner and operator of a Hamilton pain clinic pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court today to illegal distribution of controlled substances, health care fraud and violating the anti-kickback statute.
Nilesh Jobalia, 54, of Cincinnati, entered a guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Susan J. Dlott.
Benjamin C. Glassman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio; Lamont Pugh III, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General; Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost; Anthony Groeber, Executive Director, State Medical Board of Ohio; Steven Schierholt, Executive Director, State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy; and Stephanie B. McCloud, Administrator, Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation, announced the plea.
“Today Dr. Jobalia accepted responsibility for trafficking drugs by means of a prescription pad, health care fraud, and receiving kickbacks,” U.S. Attorney Glassman said. “He faces a substantial term of imprisonment for his crimes.”
According to court documents, Jobalia owned and operated Cincinnati Centers for Pain Relief in Hamilton, Ohio from March 2013 through December 2017. Although the practice was not licensed as such, it operated almost exclusively as a pain clinic.
Patients were prescribed fentanyl, oxycodone, methadone, morphine and other controlled substances on many occasions without actually being seen by the doctor.
Jobalia’s practice also billed Medicare, Medicaid and the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation for medically unnecessary prescriptions and services not rendered.
For example, prescriptions to one customer alone caused the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to pay more than $450,000 for medically unnecessary drugs. In total, Jobalia caused more than $2 million in false claims.
“Our investigators started looking at Dr. Jobalia in 2015 for suspicious prescribing, and we’re pleased to see this case come to a just end,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud. “Even more so, we’re pleased to see him out of practice and out of the BWC system. Our injured workers are better off.”
Jobalia also received more than $103,000 from a pharmaceutical company for purported speaking engagements about a fentanyl spray, a medication intended for breakthrough cancer pain.
The speaking engagements were actually sham programs, though, in which many attendees were not medical professionals permitted to prescribe the fentanyl spray. Usually, Jobalia, some of his staff and the pharmaceutical sales representative were the only people present at the engagements, which were held at fine dining restaurants in the Cincinnati area.
Jobalia was indicted by a federal grand jury in June 2018.
As part of his plea agreement, the parties involved in his case are recommending a sentence range of 78 to 144 months in prison.
“This pain relief clinic was nothing more than a front for hard drug handouts,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said. “Shutting the operation down is a big win for a region that’s been hit especially hard by the opioid crisis.”
“I applaud the dedication of our agents in helping to secure this conviction,” said State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy Executive Director Schierholt. “The coordination among agencies demonstrates the importance of collaboration in addressing the criminal activity fueling Ohio’s drug epidemic.”
U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the investigation by the HHS-OIG, Ohio Medical and Pharmacy boards, Bureau of Workers’ Compensation and Ohio Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, as well as Assistant United States Attorneys Maritsa Flaherty and Salvador A. Dominguez, who are prosecuting the case.
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