Woodhaven doc gets 16.5 years in prison, $30.3M penalty for opioid scheme

Kara Berg
The Detroit News

Detroit — A Woodhaven doctor was sentenced Monday to serve 16.5 years in prison and was ordered to pay $30.3 million in restitution for his involvement in one of the largest health-care fraud schemes in U.S. history — though the doctor maintains his innocence.

Detroit U.S. District Court Judge Denise Page Hood imposed the prison sentence and fine on Dr. Francisco Patino, 68, who was convicted in September 2021 of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud; two counts of health care fraud; one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and pay and receive health care kickbacks; one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and one count of money laundering.

Prosecutors said Patino was the mastermind of one of the most egregious health care fraud schemes in U.S. history and prescribed dangerous amounts of pain pills amid the country's opioid crisis.

Patino maintained his innocence during Monday's sentencing, saying he would rather die in prison than admit to something he didn't do. He told a story of his dad being arrested in Cuba when he was 6 and watching him refuse to lie to name people involved in revolutionary activity.

Justice Department Trial Attorney Steven Scott said Patino prescribed excessive amounts of opioids to patients at his Livonia clinic and subjected them to unnecessary and painful spinal injections, for which Patino billed Medicare $50 million. This was twice the amount of any other U.S. doctor in a related field, he said.

Many of these patients only accepted the spinal injections because Patino would not prescribe the opioids without them, Scott said. Federal prosecutors also accused him of laundering money through a vanity diet program and sponsoring mixed martial arts fighters during a 2008-2018 conspiracy.

Dr. Frank Patino's social media posts show him wrestling alligators, strolling on exotic beaches and striking shirtless poses.

"Without (Patino), we wouldn't be sitting here today," Scott said. "What he did was wasteful and was providing no help to patients. It was only done to get money."

Prosecutors had asked for a 30-year prison sentence. Scott said that sentence would have been warranted because Patino administered thousands of unnecessary, painful injections and caused patients to either become addicted to opioids or sink deeper into addiction.

"He continued the scheme on his own after 2013 and collected millions of dollars from Medicare from the fraudulent claims he caused to be submitted," Scott wrote. "He has not accepted any responsibility for his actions."

Frank Patino

Patino's attorney, Martin Crandall, said Patino’s conviction was the "result of a defenseless trial." He filed a motion for a new trial, which Hood denied. He indicated during the sentencing hearing that Patino intends to appeal the conviction.

Crandall asked Page Hood to sentence Patino to time served, which is a total of more than four years, because Patino can do more good in the community than in prison.

Patino said his former defense attorney did not use the information he gave him and did not grant Patino's request to testify at trial.

The jury didn't get the full story because they did not truly know who Patino was, Crandall said: A doctor who has traveled to Nigeria and the Dominican Republic to provide medical attention to the people there at his own expense.

"It just doesn't fit for him to be involved in philanthropy for all these years and to be committing these crimes," Crandall said.

Now, Patino teaches a daily bible study in prison and is working on finishing his master's thesis in biblical studies, he said.

Patino was arrested and charged in 2018 as a part of a broader nationwide crackdown on health care fraud.

One of Patino's colleagues, West Bloomfield businessman Mashiyat Rashid, is serving a 15-year prison sentence. Prosecutors said Rashid orchestrated a $150 million scheme, following Patino's protocol to have patients receive the injections in exchange for opioids. Prosecutors say Rashid spent his share of the scheme on a $7 million Franklin mansion, courtside National Basketball Association game tickets, a Lamborghini, Hermes clothes and rare watches.