Man Who Posed As Doctor Convicted Of Prescribing Thousands Of Opioids At Pill Mill

By Paul Gaita 09/16/19

The fake doctor wrote prescriptions which had been pre-signed by a registered physician for more than 200,000 doses of hydrocodone.

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Individuals were charged $250 in cash for each visit © Wollertz | Dreamstime.com

A man who pretended to be a physician and issued prescriptions for hundreds of thousands of doses of opioids was found guilty after a five-day trial, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced.

Muhammad Arif, 61, is awaiting sentencing for one count of conspiracy to unlawfully distribute and dispense controlled substances and three counts of unlawfully distributing and dispensing controlled substances, which he carried out from late 2015 to early 2016 at an unregistered pain clinic in Rosenberg, Texas, which federal authorities described as a "pill mill." 

Though unlicensed to practice medicine, Arif saw patients and wrote prescriptions for hydrocodone and other drugs that were pre-signed by a registered physician. Both the doctor and the owner of the clinic were named as co-conspirators in the case.

Patients Shell Out $250 Cash For Hydrocodone, Soma Prescriptions

According to the DOJ release, evidence presented at the trial showed that up to 40 people a day could visit the Aster Medical Clinic, where they obtained prescriptions for over 200,000 dosage units of the opioid pain medication hydrocodone and over 145,000 dosage units of the muscle relaxant carisoprodol, a Schedule IV controlled substance which is also sold under the brand name Soma. 

"The combination of hydrocodone and carisoprodol is a dangerous drug cocktail with no known medical benefit," wrote the authors of the DOJ release.

Testimony revealed that individuals were charged $250 in cash for each visit. "Crew leaders" would recruit individuals to pose as patients and paid for their visits in order to obtain the prescriptions, which were sold on the street.

Real Doctor Pleads Guilty for His Role in Pain Med Scheme

The co-conspirators—Baker Niazi, 48, and Waleed Khan, 47—both pled guilty for their roles in the prescription scheme at Aster Medical Clinic, and like Arif, are currently awaiting sentencing.

The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, a joint initiative between the DOJ and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Since 2007, the Strike Force, which operates in 23 districts, has charged nearly 4,000 defendants, who have billed Medicare for more than $14 billion.

The news comes on the heels of the DOJ's August 28th announcement regarding charges filed against 41 individuals for their alleged involvement in a pill mill network of clinics and pharmacies.

According to the press release, the owner and pharmacist at one pharmacy allegedly dispensed the second highest amount of oxycodone 30 mg pills of all the pharmacies in Texas in 2019, and the ninth highest amount in the United States.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites. 

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