A Detroit-area doctor on Wednesday became the latest physician held accountable for prescribing opioids for profit, with a jury finding him guilty on multiple counts of fraud and money laundering in a more than $100 million plot that gave patients opioids if they let him bill their insurance for needless and pricey spinal injections.
Francisco “Frank” Patino faces a potential life sentence, according to the Justice Department.
His conviction follows the federal prosecutors’ announcement Friday that it charged 16 healthcare providers with crimes related to illegally prescribing or distributing opioids, CNBC reported.
Patino was Michigan’s top prescriber of 30 milligram Oxycodone pills in 2016 and 2017, the Justice Department alleged, and was found to have billed Medicare for the spinal injections more than any other doctor for more than five years.
Patino’s lawyer said that someone stole his prescription pads and made the excessive oxycodone prescriptions fraudulently used his DEA Registration Number—which allows physicians to prescribe controlled substances like opioids—and that an old business partner was responsible for some of the charges the government pinned on him, the Detroit News reported in 2018.
Patino also received kickbacks from a diagnostic lab for referring patients there.
Patino was arrested in 2018, according to MLive. The Justice Department has promoted high-profile charges and convictions of doctors for overprescribing opioids. In 2019, federal prosecutors announced an opioid task force had charged 31 doctors and 29 other healthcare workers for illegally prescribing opioids in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia and Alabama. Later that year, a doctor in Virginia was sentenced to 40 years in prison, NPR reported, for prescribing more than 500,000 doses of opioids including oxycodone and fentanyl.
Prosecutors alleged that Patino spent more than $100,000 of the ill-gotten money to sponsor mixed-martial arts fighters and boxers who would promote his “Patino Diet,” while the Detroit News reported on social media photos that showed Patino, now 66, wrestling an alligator.
Patino’s trial was postponed in August after Chief U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood had to quarantine after her possible exposure to Covid-19, according to the Detroit News. Patino also contracted Covid-19 during the trial and unsuccessfully sought to be released.
Case against doctor lined with threats, exotic dancers (The Detroit News)