Jury convicts alligator-wrestling doctor from Woodhaven in $120M fraud case

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — An alligator-wrestling surgeon from Woodhaven was convicted following a jury trial and after being accused of masterminding a more than $100 million health care fraud scheme — one of the largest in U.S. history.

Dr. Frank Patino, 66, prescribed excessive amounts of opioids to patients at his Livonia clinic, subjected clients to unnecessary and painful spinal injections that yielded lucrative payments for his medical practice. Prosecutors also accused him of laundering money through a vanity diet program and spending money sponsoring mixed martial arts fighters.

Frank Patino

Jurors convicted Patino of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud; two counts of health care fraud; one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and pay and receive health care kickbacks; one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and one count of money laundering. Deliberations lasted about eight hours following a trial spread over nine days that was delayed due to a COVID-19 scare.

Patino was the first person to stand trial in a criminal case in federal court in Detroit since the start of the pandemic.

He is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 20 and faces up to life in federal prison.

Patino's lawyer, David Nacht, declined comment.

The case against Patino drew wide interest because of the scope of the alleged crime and the doctor's outsized personality and appearance. Before spending three years in jail awaiting trial, Patino was frequently shirtless, posing next to bikini-clad women and flexing his muscles in social media posts and promotional photographs for his self-styled "Patino Diet."

During a court hearing last month, however, Patino appeared dramatically thin, elderly and clothed — in an orange Livingston County Jail jumpsuit.

The surgeon has been detained amid allegations he hid millions of dollars in offshore bank accounts and concerns he would try to flee the United States if released on bond.

Dr. Frank Patino's social media posts show him wrestling alligators, strolling on exotic beaches with his bikini-clad, younger wife and striking shirtless poses.

Prosecutors and Patino's legal team waged a prolonged fight over evidence amassed during a years-long investigation, including testimony from witnesses that Patino allegedly traded drugs for sex with a stripper, hid profits from the illegal scheme and kept $50,000 in cash under a mattress. Other allegations included one claim Patino ripped out his sick, 80-pound ex-wife's feeding tube.

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 also 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.


Twitter: @robertsnellnews