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Woman, 84, faces federal drug charges in scheme

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

An 84-year-old woman and associates at a pain management clinic she ran on the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti border are facing charges after federal authorities allege they schemed to sell "medically unnecessary prescriptions" for oxycodone, fentanyl, methadone and other controlled substances.

According to a 17-count indictment filed this week in U.S. District Court, Lillian "Bubbie" Meghnot of Ann Arbor and others involved with her enterprise worked to give the "false appearance of a legitimate medical practice" between September 2011 and March 2015.

Investigators claim the octogenarian, office manager Gerardo "Jerry" Alcala-Rivera as well as licensed medical doctors Anthony Conrardy, Sharadchandra Patel and William McCutchen III went to great lengths maintaining that front.

Among them: The Meghnot Comprehensive Center for Hope Ltd. "operated on a cash-only basis and refused to take any medical insurance," charging patients about $250 per visit "regardless of the amount of time spent with the doctor or the purpose of the consultation," the court document read.

Authorities also allege in the indictment that patient consultations weren't aimed at healing or diagnosing a condition but "to conceal that the true purpose of the visit was for the patient to receive an illegitimate prescription for controlled substances." Physical examinations "were often negligible and spurious," the filing stated.

A search warrant was executed this week at the clinic. Federal agents arrested Meghnot, Conrardy and Alcala-Rivera, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services investigated.

Meghnot was scheduled for an arraignment Monday. She also was ordered to surrender her passport, restrict travel and not associate with any business or medical practice prescribing controlled substances, court listings show.

Alcala-Rivera and Conrardy appeared in federal court this week, said Gina Balaya, public information officer for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit. They and Meghnot have unsecured bonds of $10,000, according to court records.

Patel and McCutcheon, who no longer work at the clinic, were not arrested but have also appeared in federal court, Balaya said Friday.

A conviction on the unlawful prescription drug distribution conspiracy and other counts in the indictment carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $1 million fine or both, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Mark Kriger, the lawyer representing Patel, said Friday: "I don't think it's appropriate to comment on pending cases. I think it's appropriate to comment in the appropriate forum, which is the courtroom."

Attorneys for the other defendants could not be immediately reached for comment Friday night.