Suspended Physician Pleads Guilty to Illegally Dispensing Oxycodone and Falsely Billing Medicare in Undercover Probe
CHICAGO—A suburban physician whose medical license was suspended after he was arrested earlier this year pleaded guilty today to health care fraud and illegally prescribing controlled substance medications. The defendant, SATHISH NARAYANAPPA BABU, who owned Anik Life Sciences Medical Corp., admitted that he illegally prescribed oxycodone and other controlled substances, and fraudulently billed Medicare approximately $500,000, and fraudulently collected approximately $216,000, for services he did not provide. Babu, 47, of Bolingbrook, operated Anik Life Sciences, a home-visiting physician’s office, in Darien and, previously, in Arlington Heights. He was arrested in February following an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
As part of his plea agreement, Babu agreed to surrender his DEA registration. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison on one count of health care fraud and four years in prison on one count of illegally prescribing a controlled substance, and a $250,000 maximum fine on each count. The government anticipates an advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines range of 57 to 71 months in prison, according to Babu’s plea agreement.
Babu remains free on bond, which prohibits him from writing any prescriptions or submitting any claims to Medicare, while awaiting sentencing on Jan. 21, 2015, by U.S. District Judge John J. Tharp, Jr.
Babu also agreed to forfeit approximately $126,000 that was seized when he was arrested, as well as three automobiles ― a 2013 BMW, a 2001 BMW, and a 2010 Lexus.
In pleading guilty, Babu admitted that between November 2012 and December 2013, he issued multiple prescriptions for controlled substances to a purported patient who was actually an undercover agent, despite never having seen or examined the patient. The prescriptions totaled approximately 300 pills containing 80mg strength oxycodone, 180 pills containing 5-325mg strength hydrocodone, and 120 pills containing 1 mg strength of alprazolam. Babu also permitted unlicensed personnel associated with Anik Life Sciences to issue prescriptions to the patient. During the same period, Babu submitted false claims to Medicare for services purportedly provided to the patient that were not rendered by Babu or another licensed medical professional.
According to court documents, the undercover agent posed as a healthy individual purportedly covered by Medicare and seeking physician services to obtain prescription medication, including oxycodone. The agent claimed to have shoulder pain from a previous injury and to be on disability. On approximately 10 occasions, representatives from Anik Life Sciences, none of whom were licensed as physicians, nurses, or other medical professionals, visited the undercover agent in his purported apartment.
Babu caused unlicensed personnel from Anik Life Sciences to provide purported medical care ― including prescriptions issued under Babu’s name and DEA registration number for controlled substances ― to the undercover agent and then billed Medicare for that purported care. Medicare and its contractor paid about $4,000 to cover the costs of the prescriptions that Babu issued to the undercover agent.
In addition to the undercover agent, Babu had other patients, whom he certified and recertified as eligible for home health services under Medicare, and submitted claims for care he purportedly provided, including home visits and diagnostic testing and review, without regard to whether the claimed services were medically necessary. Babu hired three foreign medical school graduates who were not licensed physicians in the United States to conduct home visits and advertised these individuals as “MDs” or doctors. Babu submitted Medicare claims indicating that he personally conducted the patient visits and provided comprehensive medical evaluations that he did not actually perform.
Babu also maintained an office staff that he directed to order certain diagnostic tests for every patient, including ultrasound and autonomic nervous system testing, without regard to medical necessity. He further prescribed controlled substances to patients who he had never seen or examined and permitted his unlicensed staff to fill out prescriptions and order refills for patients.
The guilty plea was announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Jack Riley, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration; Lamont Pugh III, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Regional Office of the HHS-OIG; and Robert J. Holley, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The officials commended the assistance of United Healthcare in the investigation. The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Streicker.