Muscle-bound MD indicted in $112M scheme

Robert Snell
The Detroit News
Frank Patino

Detroit — A muscle-bound physician was indicted Wednesday and accused of heading a $112 million health-care fraud scheme and spending the proceeds sponsoring Mixed Martial Arts fighters.

Dr. Frank Patino, 63, of Woodhaven, bankrolled his self-styled "Patino Diet" and sponsored boxers, MMA and Ultimate Fighting Championship fighters, including world champions, with kickbacks and bribes that he received from co-conspirators, according to a 29-page indictment that identified Patino as the state's top prescriber of oxycodone 30 mg, the powerful opioid painkiller.

From 2016 to 2017, Patino wrote prescriptions for more than 2.2 million pills, including fentanyl, oxycodone and oxymorphone, some of which were medically unnecessary and ended up being resold on the street, according to the indictment.

Patino is the latest person charged in a nationwide health-care fraud crackdown that has led to sweeping indictments across Metro Detroit in the last year. In 2017, a health care executive was charged in a $200 million Medicare conspiracy and federal prosecutors say he blew the money on a $7 million Franklin mansion and courtside NBA tickets, and stuffed secret storage units with cash.

"He denies the allegations and expects to be fully vindicated at the end of this," defense lawyer Brian Lennon told The News.

Patino made an emotional appearance Wednesday in federal court. Dressed in a T-shirt that revealed bulging, veiny biceps, the barrel-chested Patino shuffled into court, his handcuffs and ankle chains clanking as he sat on a wooden bench, waiting for his case to be called.

He appeared distraught and kept his head bowed and eyes on the floor while sitting next to a drug dealer convicted of distributing, coincidentally, oxycodone.

Frank Patino

U.S. Magistrate Judge David Grand ordered Patino held without bond pending a detention hearing Friday.

Patino is charged with conspiracy to commit health-care fraud, health-care fraud, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and pay and receive health-care kickbacks and receiving kickbacks. If convicted, he could face up to 40 years in federal prison.

Patino portrayed himself as a Robin Hood-success story and drew headlines in 2014 by donating 300 free Christmas hams to Pontiac residents. He distributed the hams with former Detroit Pistons player James Edwards.

Former Detroit Pistons player James Edwards, left, shares a laugh with Dr. Frank Patino while distributing 300 hams for holiday dinners during "Operation Pig Out" in 2014.

The alleged conspiracy dates to December 2008 and involved Patino and others submitting phony claims to Medicare and Medicaid for claims based on kickbacks and bribes and claims for medically unnecessary services, according to the government.

Patino orchestrated the scheme through multiple companies, including Detroit-based Global Quality Inc. and Patino Laboratories Inc. in Livonia, the indictment claims.

Besides prescribing opioids and other drugs that were resold on the street, Patino also required patients to receive expensive injections, prosecutors allege. He also conducted a battery of fraudulent, medically unnecessary and expensive injections to increase revenue, according to the indictment.

Patino and others sought and received illegal kickbacks and bribes in exchange for referring patients or ordering tests, including urine drug testing from three laboratories, including Patino's, the indictment alleges.

UFC fighter Urijah Faber, left, Dr. Frank Patino and fighter Scott Jorgensen, right, as featured on the doctor's Facebook page.

He hid the kickbacks and bribes by entering into sham contracts or employment relationships, prosecutors allege. Some of the money generated by the conspiracy, including more than $100,000, was spent advertising the "Patino Diet" through sponsorship of boxers, MMA and UFC fighters, prosecutors allege.

No fighters are identified in the indictment. But Patino's website and Facebook page includes photos of numerous fighters, including UFC legend Urijah Faber.

Other UFC fighters who the doctor describes as members of the "Patino Diet" team include Hall of Famer Mark "The Hammer" Coleman, Josh Burns and Eric Prindle, according to Patino's blog

According to a UFC spokesman, the organization has no ties to Patino and the company has not been contacted by investigators.

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