Doctor charged in $120M fraud scheme in 'dire' condition after contracting COVID-19

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

A Wayne County doctor charged with orchestrating one of the largest health-care fraud schemes in U.S. history is requesting pre-trial release from federal prison after contracting COVID-19 this week, according to a court filing.

Dr. Frank Patino, 65, of Woodhaven, is in "dire" condition with pneumonia and is struggling to breathe and speak, according to the Friday filing. The surgeon should be released to get proper medical care, his lawyer wrote.

Frank Patino, a Wayne County doctor charged in orchestrating one of the largest health-care fraud schemes in U.S. history, is requesting pre-trial release from federal prison after contracting COVID-19 this week.

The surgeon — who previously had posted on social media buff, shirtless photos — is accused of organizing $120 million in health-care fraud by laundering money through a vanity diet program. With kickbacks and bribes from co-conspirators, he allegedly sponsored mixed martial arts fighters, including hall of fame Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter Urijah Faber.

"Unfortunately, Dr. Patino contracted COVID-19 this week and the situation has quickly become dire," Fabiola Galguera, Patino's attorney, wrote. "Dr. Patino has not yet received adequate care to combat COVID."

Patino, she added, is at an elevated risk of serious illness due to pre-existing conditions, including hypertension and stage 3 renal failure. His blood oxygen level is at 91%, she said. A normal level is between 95% and 100%, according to the Mayo Clinic; values under 90% are considered low.

There is an order to send Patino to an emergency room based on medical records sent to his lawyer by the assistant U.S. attorney, but it was unclear Friday if he had been attended to, Galguera said.

"Dr. Patino’s life is currently in danger and it is in his best interest that he be released from (the federal correction institution in Milan) immediately so he can get proper medical care," she wrote.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Justice Department could not immediately be reached.

Dr. Frank Patino, 63, of Woodhaven is awaiting trial in one of the largest health care fraud cases in U.S. history.

Patino was supposed to stand trial in August, but the date was delayed indefinitely due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The surgeon has been detained in federal prison since June 2018 amid allegations he hid millions of dollars in offshore bank accounts and concerns he will try to flee the United States if released on bond.

Prosecutors and Patino's legal team have been fighting over evidence amassed during a years-long investigation, including testimonies from witnesses that Patino allegedly traded drugs for sex with a stripper, hid profits from the illegal scheme, kept $50,000 in cash under a mattress and allegations of domestic violence, including one claim he ripped out his sick, 80-pound ex-wife's feeding tube.

Three inmates at the correctional facility in Milan died in the spring after testing positive for COVID-19, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. One in every five state and federal prisoners in the United States has tested positive for the coronavirus, a rate more than four times as high as the general population, according to The Associated Press.

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble