The case involves an alleged drug-trafficking ring and Washington Township resident and concert promoter Deepak Kumar. (Detroit News file)
Detroit — Federal agents busted a multistate drug and health-care fraud scheme Wednesday involving 54 people, including a Bollywood concert promoter who brought the Oscar-winning composer of "Slumdog Millionaire" to Metro Detroit.
The indictment is the latest in a series of health-care fraud cases in Metro Detroit involving doctors writing phony prescriptions for pain pills which end up on the streets of Detroit and neighboring states.
"These are not the doctors most of us would hope to visit," U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said Wednesday.
The case is the second major crackdown in as many days by federal prosecutors.
On Monday, a grand jury indicted 13 people, including several doctors and pharmacists who are accused of operating a drug scheme and committing health care fraud.
In the indictment Wednesday, federal court records chronicle an unusual case involving a Bollywood concert promoter, doctors and a painkiller pipeline from Detroit to a small industrial town in southern Ohio hit hard by prescription drug abuse.
The indictment Wednesday adds 44 defendants to a criminal case unsealed two years ago. Among those charged Wednesday is Washington Township concert promoter Deepak Kumar.
Kumar was charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess controlled substances and health-care fraud conspiracy.
He was released on $10,000 bond Wednesday and faces up to 20 years in prison and more than $1 million fines, if convicted.
His lawyer Mark Kriger declined comment.
The News wrote about Kumar in July after he was accused in a civil case of bankrolling his Bollywood career with money from a health-care fraud scheme.
Kumar, 46, poured $30,000 from an alleged health-care fraud scheme into staging a concert featuring "Slumdog" composer A.R. Rahman at the Pontiac Silverdome in June 2010, a federal prosecutor said. The concert was scrapped at the 11th hour after the stage collapsed.
Health-care fraud is one of the most widespread crimes confronting local federal agencies, who have charged more than 164 people in recent years with submitting more than $244 million in fraudulent Medicare billings.
The latest alleged scheme involved seven doctors, four pharmacists and three home-health agency owners.
The scheme relied on medical professionals prescribing drugs to phony patients without performing medical exams, according to federal court records.
The phony patients — some recruited from soup kitchens and homeless shelters — let doctors use their personal information to commit medical insurance fraud in return for cash, prosecutors said.
Members of the alleged conspiracy prescribed drugs, including OxyContin, Xanax and codeine cough syrup, which had a combined street value of more than $24 million, according to the indictment.
The alleged scheme cost Medicare and Medicaid more than $21.5 million for unnecessary patient services and prescription drugs.
Some of the drugs were hauled by couriers from Detroit down U.S. 23 to Portsmouth, Ohio.
In 2011, the New York Times spotlighted Portsmouth, a southern Ohio town of 20,171 people and the toll painkillers had taken on the city's young people.
Portsmouth Police Chief Robert Ware enlisted Detroit Police and federal agents to disrupt the pipeline of illegal drugs.
He called Wednesday a "bittersweet day," saying the conspiracy preyed on people in his town, which he called a "mini Detroit."
Like Detroit, the Ohio town has suffered in the wake of businesses closing, leaving behind people who are "maybe less fortunate, maybe less educated."
"Those factors made us a ripe target," Ware said.