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Dearborn entrepreneur charged in $1M health care fraud

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

A Dearborn pharmacist, hailed earlier this year for opening the nation's first halal-certified Sonic Drive-In restaurant, cheated Medicare and Medicaid by charging for medication prescribed to dead people, according to federal prosecutors.

Trudell Pharmacy owner Haytham "Tom" Fakih also committed health care fraud by billing for expensive medication that was not dispensed to patients, prosecutors alleged in a criminal complaint filed against the pharmacist in federal court Sunday. In all, the fraud cost more than $1.2 million, authorities allege.

Haytham "Tom" Fakih

Fakih, 53, is the latest in a string of local doctors, businessmen and medical professionals facing criminal charges related to health care fraud that have totaled more than $800 million in recent years. 

The investigation emerged publicly in September when federal agents seized more than $350,000 during a series of raids that happened five months after Fakih staged a ribbon-cutting ceremony at his Sonic Drive-In restaurant with Dearborn Mayor John O'Reilly Jr. and other community leaders.

On Sunday, Fakih was released on $10,000 unsecured bond after making an initial appearance in federal court. If convicted, he could spend up to 10 years in prison.

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Neither Fakih nor his attorney could not be reached for comment Monday.

The fraud outlined by prosecutors dates to 2012. Investigators allege Fakih, while owning the pharmacy on Schaefer Road, north of Ford Road, fraudulently billed Medicare and Medicaid for medications that were not given to patients, according to the criminal complaint.

Trudell Pharmacy in Dearborn, which Haytham "Tom" Fakih founded in 1996.

"Fakih submitted false and fraudulent claims, through interstate wires from Michigan, to Medicare and Medicaid," Michael Pemberton, a special agent with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, wrote in the complaint.

The list of drugs included medication used to treat asthma, acid reflux, arthritis, shingles and bipolar disorder.

"Based upon the shortage detected ... Medicare and Medicaid paid Trudell approximately $1,239,577.57 for medications that Trudell did not have sufficient inventory to dispense," the federal agent wrote.

The investigation intensified on Sept. 11.

That's when FBI agents seized cash from multiple bank accounts tied to Fakih and the entrepreneur's Dearborn Heights home, according to a government notice. The seizures included $181,725 found at his home and inside his 2015 Lexus.

Agents also seized $18,583 from a bank account belonging to South Ford Road Investments LLC. The company owns the Sonic Drive-In restaurant property, according to Dearborn records.

Fakih drew attention in April when the Sonic Drive-In debuted, becoming the chain's first location nationwide to offer food prepared according to Islamic law. 

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Twitter: @robertsnellnews