Health care CEO accused of cheating Medicare to sell opioids

The scheme involved giving patients unnecessary spinal injections

A 38-year-old CEO of several health care clinics in Michigan and Ohio has pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering charges after the Justice Department accused him of using Medicare patients to build a lucrative drug dealing operation involving opioids.

Federal authorities say the scheme involved getting patients on Medicare – the federal health care program for people who are over age 65 or disabled – to undergo spinal injections in exchange for pills that could be sold elsewhere.

Mashiyat Rashid of West Bloomfield, Michigan, was CEO of Tri-County Wellness Group, a network of pain clinics and laboratories in areas hard hit by the opioid crisis. Ohio is among the top five states with the highest rates of opioid-related overdose deaths.

Phone calls to Rashid and his attorney were not immediately returned.

The Justice Department announced the guilty plea on Monday.

It was a part of a lengthy and broad investigation that accuses several doctors of working with Rashid to receive kickbacks in the scheme. According to the government, Rashid has agreed to forfeit some $51 million as well as $11.5 million in real estate connected to his scheme. He also agreed to turn over his Detroit Pistons season ticket membership.

"To those dishonest and unethical physicians and healthcare providers who prioritize profits over their pledge to provide honest services to those in need, the message should be clear: that the collective resources of local, state and federal law enforcement will expose these schemes and will bring you to justice,” said Timothy R. Slater, the FBI special agent in charge of the case.

The Trump administration has vowed to crack down on opioid drug dealers. Earlier this year, federal officials targeted almost 100 people participating in a heroin and fentanyl distribution network based out of Huntington, W.Va., and Detroit, Mich.