Warren physician delays start of prison term for fraud
A Warren physician sentenced to seven years in prison for writing prescriptions for oxycodone without medical justification and for health care fraud has delayed his surrender to federal authorities for nearly six months.
Hussein “Sam” Awada, brother of former Wayne County economic development chief Turkia Mullin, was scheduled to turn himself in to the U.S. Marshals Service on Wednesday after he pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy and health-care fraud charges in federal court in February 2015. He was sentenced in November.
Prosecutors allege Awada, 46, of Royal Oak, billed dead people, stashed $1 million cash in his house, sent money to Lebanon and pocketed up to $20,000 a month in kickbacks from a recruiter who found patients to receive prescriptions for pain medications, including Oxycodone.
After sentencing in November, U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds ordered Awada to turn himself in to the U.S. Marshals Service on Jan. 20.
That date was extended to Feb. 22 after Awada asked for 30 additional days to be present at the closings of the sale of property taken in a government forfeiture as part of his conviction.
According to court records, Awada asked for another 30 days to deal with the sale of additional property. The date was reset for March 30. A third request was made for 14 additional days, which the judge granted.
On April 14, Edmunds extended Awada’s surrender date from Wednesday to June 3 after Awada had requested an extension to “undergo and recuperate from two necessary surgeries.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not object, but Edmunds issued an order that said, “There will be no further extensions sought or granted.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lynn Helland with the department’s health care fraud division, said in each case the government agreed to the four extensions for different reasons.
“The first several were at our request because it allowed him to be available and allowed us to maximize our return on the properties in forfeiture,” Helland said.
Prosecutors did not object to the surgery because Awada would bear the expense rather than the Bureau of Prisoners and taxpayers.
“It is a long time, longer than normal. But it’s not long under the circumstances,” Helland said.
Prosecutors said from 2010 to 2012, Awada wrote prescriptions for 80,000 pills, including oxycodone, Roxicodone and other controlled medications, in the names of people, given by marketers, for no medical purpose.
The marketers then bought the pills from the “patients” and resold them to street dealers, prosecutors said. Awada then used the patient data for the patients brought to him by marketers to submit bills to Medicare and Blue Cross Blue Shield for services that were either never performed or were medically unjustified.
Awada caused these same patients to receive monthly X-rays and other invasive tests that were medically unnecessary but helped to conceal his fraud, prosecutors said.
Court records indicate the alleged prescription drug scheme was so profitable that Awada allegedly bragged he had stashed as much as $20 million, including more than $1 million cash at his Royal Oak home, and shipped money to Lebanon inside a storage container.
Awada was also ordered to pay $2.3 million in restitution to Blue Cross and Medicare and to pay the government $2.3 million.
Prosecutors are confiscating cash from his business, real estate and a vehicle as part of the case.
Peter Henning, a Wayne State University professor of law and a former federal prosecutor, said federal prisoners typically get six to eight weeks to turn themselves in while the Federal Bureau of Prisons finds an appropriate location for them to serve their time.
Henning said four extension is not outrageous, but it is problematic.
“Usually you don’t see this many extensions.... I would expect Judge Edmunds is at the end of her rope. This sounds like her last extension,” Henning said.