February 6, 2015

Former Pharmacist Sentenced for Role in Drug Distribution Scheme and Money Laundering

A Dearborn pharmacist was sentenced yesterday to six years in prison for conspiracy to illegally distribute prescription pills and money laundering, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced today.

McQuade was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge Jarod J. Koopman, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation and Special Agent in Charge Marlon Miller, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

In March 2013, Waleed Yaghmour was charged with 43 others in a health care fraud and drug distribution scheme. The indictment alleged that Sardar Ashrafkhan, Deepak Kumar, John Check and David Vezzossi, who owned home health agencies, provided kickbacks, bribes and other illegal benefits to physicians in exchange for prescriptions for patients with Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance. The prescriptions were for controlled substances including oxycodone (Oxycontin), hydrocodone (Vicodin) and alprazolam (Xanax). Patient recruiters or “marketers” would pay kickbacks and bribes to patients in exchange for the patients’ permitting the pharmacies and physicians to bill their insurers for medications and services that were medically unnecessary and/or never provided. During the conspiracy, prescriptions were presented to the Sav-Mart Pharmacy in Detroit, which was owned and operated by Yaghmour, as well as several other pharmacies.

In his guilty plea, Yaghmour, 48, admitted that he knew that the controlled substances he dispensed for these fraudulent prescriptions had no legitimate medical purposes. Yaghmour has admitted to dispensing at least 1,500 oxycodone 100,000 hydrocodone and 100,000 alprazolam doses as part of the scheme.

Yaghmour received nearly $2 million in cash payments for illegally dispensing the controlled substances. Yaghmour has agreed to forfeit $973,177.87 that was seized from an account that he maintained at HSBC Bank Middle East Limited, Ramallah, Palestine.

“More people die in America every year from prescription drug overdoses than from overdoses of all other drugs combined,” McQuade said. “In addition, prescription drug addiction has led to a resurgence in heroin use. Pharmacists who divert prescription drugs to the street market are contributing to this epidemic, and we are focusing our enforcement efforts on stopping them.”

“We entrust physicians and healthcare providers with monitoring, caring, and treating members of our community,” said Miller. “When that trust is violated, the integrity of the system is compromised and lives are put at risk. HSI will continue to partner with the law enforcement community to ensure that unscrupulous physicians and healthcare providers are brought to justice.”

“The public rightfully expects that doctors and pharmacists will uphold the oath that they take to “do no harm.” When they abuse their professional license for financial gain they put the public at risk, in this case by dispensing highly addictive controlled substances. IRS Criminal Investigation’s unique role in these investigations is to follow the money trail in order to disrupt these criminal drug organizations that diminish the quality of life in our communities” said Jarod J. Koopman, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation.

Many of the defendants charged in the indictment have been convicted by pleas and have been sentenced already. Others are scheduled to be sentenced in the near future.

The case was investigated by special agents from the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, the U.S. Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement’s Department of Homeland Security Investigations, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol Firearms and Explosives, Detroit Police Dept., Portsmouth, Ohio, Police Dept., Scioto County Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, and the Detroit Violent Crimes Task Force and Michigan State Police. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Terrence R. Haugabook, Michael Martin, and Wayne F. Pratt. They are assisted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jonathan Grey and Gjon Juncaj of the Forfeiture Section.