NEWARK – A Rahway man admitted Monday to posing as a licensed physician and unlawfully treating patients, prescribing medicine, and ordering procedures at an Elizabeth medical practice in a Medicaid and Medicare fraud scheme, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Hamid Bhatti, 33, entered his guilty plea to a charge of conspiracy to commit health care fraud before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patty Shwartz in Newark federal court on May 9.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, Bhatti posed as a licensed physician at the direction of Yousuf Masood, 47, of Warren, the doctor who ran the practice. Yousuf Masood and his wife, Maruk Masood, 43 – the practice’s office manager – pleaded guilty on April 21, admitting that they used unlicensed individuals to treat patients and billed Medicaid and Medicare as if Yousuf Masood provided the services.
At the hearing, Bhatti explained that he had responded to an advertisement the Masoods had placed on Craigslist. Although Bhatti told them he had not passed required tests and was not licensed to practice, they directed him to treat, diagnose, and prescribe medication for patients, introducing himself to patients as “Dr. Bhatti.” Bhatti admitted that he worked six days per week and regularly saw and treated 30 to 40 patients each day.
Over the course of the scheme, more than 20,000 patient visits were conducted by unlicensed individuals, including Bhatti, but billed to Medicaid and Medicare as if Yousuf Masood had examined the patients. Yousuf Masood was the top prescriber of drugs to Medicaid patients in New Jersey in 2009, prescribing more than $9 million in Medicaid drugs that year. The next-highest prescribing doctor in New Jersey prescribed less than $6 million.
Yousuf Masood provided Bhatti with pre-signed, blank prescription forms to write prescriptions in his name for patients he was improperly examining and treating. Bhatti admitted that he wrote prescriptions for a wide variety of drugs, including medications used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety, insomnia, and other illnesses.
On some days, more than 100 patients visited the medical practice for treatment, and the majority were treated only by unlicensed individuals. Bhatti stated that while he and other unlicensed individuals were diagnosing and treating patients, Yousuf Masood was frequently either not in the office at all, or was in his personal office watching television.
The conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing is currently scheduled for Sept. 12.
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