Feds charge Detroit area doctors in widespread opioid scheme
Detroit — Federal agents raided almost two dozen locations in Metro Detroit and other states Thursday as prosecutors unsealed an indictment charging 19 people in connection with a scheme to sell almost 2 million pain pills and other prescription drugs.
The drugs, including oxycodone, oxymorphone and codeine cough syrup carried a street value of more than $41 million and helped fuel the nation's opioid crisis in Metro Detroit and beyond, prosecutors said Thursday.
A team of agents from the FBI, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Department of Health and Human Services raided medical clinics, pharmacies and homes in Detroit, St. Clair Shores and other locations Thursday before unsealing a 44-count indictment. The new criminal case represents the latest crackdown on medical crimes in a region hard hit by fraud allegations involving corrupt doctors and medical professionals in recent years.
“Prescription drugs are supposed to go to people who truly need them, not to fake patients or people selling drugs on the streets,” Detroit U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said in a Thursday statement. “We are focusing on charging doctors, pharmacists, and the networks that add to the opioid crisis, and this case is unfortunately yet another example of the serious problem facing Michigan.”
Those charged include four doctors and clinic owner John Henry Rankin III, 46, of Detroit, who is accused of hiring doctors involved in the alleged scheme and receiving cash for issuing prescriptions.
Rankin was arrested Thursday and later released on $10,000 unsecured bond.
“We maintain his innocence,” his lawyers Haralambos Mihas and Nicole Smith said in a statement. “He’s not guilty of the things that are alleged by the government.”
According to the indictment, the alleged scheme relied on several clinics and pharmacies, including Preferred Rehab Clinic PC in Warren; New Vision Rehab Center in Detroit; Detroit New Hope Pharmacy; Synergy Pharmacy in Madison Heights; Nottingham Pharmacy in Detroit; Crownz Medical Pharmacy in Warren; and Franklin Healthmart in Southfield, according to prosecutors.
Doctors charged in the case Thursday include:
• Dr. Beth Carter, 56, of Southfield.
• Dr. Robert Kenewell, 52, of Auburn Hills.
• Dr. Jason Brunt, 50, of Clawson.
• Dr. John Swan, 30, of St. Clair Shores.
• Nurse practitioner Jean Pinkard, 63, of Farmington Hills.
• Nurse practitionner Toni Green, 58, of St. Clair Shores.
• Fitzgerald Hudson, 60, Southfield.
• Virendra Gaidhane, 49, Troy.
• Pharmacist, Maksudali Saiyad, 65, Troy.
• Pharmacist Adeniyi Adepoju, 61, Warren.
• Pharmacist Ali Sabbagh, 36, Dearborn Heights.
• Robert King, 38, Taylor.
• Jermaine Hamblin, 36, Roseville.
• Sonya Mitchell, 50, Southfield.
• Lavar Carter, 56, Southfield.
• Robert Lee Dower, Jr., 49, Eastpointe.
• Denise Sailes, 51, Detroit.
• Dewayne Bason, 28, Detroit.
The alleged conspiracy started in September 2017 and involved Rankin giving money and other illegal benefits to the doctors and nurses, according to prosecutors. In return, the medical professionals wrote prescriptions for fake patients.
The pharmacies provided 1,951,148 pills during the conspiracy described by the government, including pain pills in high demand on the black market.
Some of the pharmacists billed private and public insurers, including Medicare and Medicaid, even though the pain pills and other medications were unnecessary, prosecutors said. The pharmacists also allegedly accepted cash from people who recruited patients into the conspiracy.
“Today’s indictments are the result of healthcare professionals allegedly contributing to the devastating opioid crisis instead of working toward its solution," said Steven M. D’Antuono, special agent in charge of the FBI in Michigan. "The public expects and deserves more from them."