June 20, 2011 -- A doctor who advertised his weight loss clinics on Chicago TV for nearly a decade has attracted more attention than he wanted. Dr. Gautam Gupta is being sought by the FBI on charges that he defrauded insurance companies and the government out of $25 million.
Gupta, 57, may have fled to India, the FBI said.
"We are looking into every possibility as to where he fled. India is a possibility, but that's why we're asking the public to help us track him down or get any information on his whereabouts," an FBI spokesman said.
Gupta owns up to five Nutrition Clinics in Illinois. A federal criminal complaint accuses Gupta of mail fraud, health care fraud, and conspiracy. He faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charges.
The criminal complaint alleges that Gupta and members of his staff submitted claims to the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Insurance Company and the Illinois Medicaid program for unnecessary procedures or procedures that were never even performed. During the period of June 2001 through January 2010, the Nutrition Clinic was paid almost $25 million for such claims.
"Several patients stated that ultrasound tests were conducted on them before they came into contact with a physician or physician assistant. There would, therefore, be no way for the physician or assistant to determine if this patient had a condition, or symptoms of a condition, which would indicate an ultrasound test of any kind was needed," stated the complaint.
The complaint stated that staff members at times did not consult physicians when handing out weight loss drugs such as Phentermine or diuretics saying that "patients were required to return to the clinic once a week or once every other week in order to obtain more Phentermine or other controlled substances. During these return visits, the patients would have their weight or blood pressure taken by various females dressed in medical scrubs and would not leave the room in order to obtain a physician's permission or authorization to prescribe and dispense the drug or to increase or decrease the dosage."
Weight Loss Doctor Charged With Massive Insurance Fraud
Phentermine can have side effects such as increased blood pressure, chest pains, psychosis and irregular heartbeat according to the manufacturer's website.
The complaint also alleges that the individuals providing the pills and dressed in scrubs were not in fact nurses, and that there were no trained nurses employed by Gupta.
Calls by ABC News to several of Gupta's nutrition centers were all routed to the same person who repeatedly said, "No comment," and hung on up.
Gupta has had run-ins with government regulators before. In 1999 the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation placed the doctor's controlled substance license on probation for "allegedly failing to properly apprise several female patients of the procedures required in completing heart-lung examinations," according to state documents.
In 2009, the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission accused Gupta of insider trading. He was charged with using illegal information to purchase $1 million in Georgia-Pacific stocks shortly before it was taken over by Koch Industries. He later sold the shares for about $690,000 in profits. The SEC ordered Gupta repays the profits with interest and paid a civil penalty of about $690,000.
The FBI is asking the public's assistance for any information on Gupta's whereabouts. His last known address was 1660 North Mulford Road in Rockford. A release describes him as 5-foot-5 tall, 160 pounds, graying black hair which is sometimes worn in a ponytail, and brown eyes. The FBI asks that anyone with information call the Chicago FBI at (312) 421-6700.