Judge refuses to free doctor charged in $120M scheme

Robert Snell
The Detroit News
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Detroit — A federal judge Wednesday refused to grant bond to a Wayne County doctor accused of orchestrating one of the largest health care fraud schemes in U.S. history because the alligator-wrestling surgeon has recovered from COVID-19.

Dr. Frank Patino, 66, of Woodhaven will stay in federal prison in Milan while awaiting trial he headed a $120 million health care fraud scheme and laundered money through a vanity diet program, according to an order filed by Chief U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood.

Frank Patino

The order scuttles Patino's latest bid for bond and provides an update on his medical condition less than two weeks after the surgeon's attorney revealed Patino was in "dire" condition with pneumonia and was struggling to breathe and speak.

Prosecutors fought to keep Patino jailed, calling him a danger to the public and flight risk due to overseas ties and because millions of dollars are missing.

On Wednesday, the judge cited Patino's prison medical records, which indicate he has recovered from COVID-19 and was no longer in quarantine.

"Based on the evidence submitted, defendant still has not demonstrated that his general health conditions establish a compelling and extraordinary reason for release," the judge wrote.

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

Patino's lawyers could not be reached for comment immediately Wednesday.

From 2016 to 2017, Patino wrote prescriptions for more than 2.2 million pills, including fentanyl, oxycodone and oxymorphone. Some of the medically unnecessary drugs ended up being resold on the street, according to the indictment.

With kickbacks and bribes from co-conspirators, the surgeon is accused of sponsoring mixed martial arts fighters, including hall of fame Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter Urijah Faber.

The Patino case is linked to an investigation involving a $200 million scheme and businessman Mashiyat Rashid. Prosecutors say Rashid spent his share of the scheme on a $7 million Franklin mansion, courtside NBA tickets, a Lamborghini, Hermes clothes and rare watches.

Prosecutors, court records and social media posts portray Dr. Frank Patino as a conniving crook with lies as big as his biceps, an alligator-wrestling, steroid-buying, frequently shirtless fraudster who spent ill-gotten gains on fighters and vanity diet program.

Case against doctor lined with threats, exotic dancers

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.

UFC fighter Urijah Faber, left, Dr. Frank Patino and fighter Scott Jorgensen, right, as featured on the doctor's Facebook page.

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.

rsnell@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @robertsnellnews

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