Massachusetts pain doctor pleads guilty to healthcare fraud

pills and money
A Massachusetts pain doctor pleaded guilty to healthcare fraud.

A doctor who operated four pain clinics in Massachusetts and Rhode Island pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges that he submitted false claims for services he did not provide while prescribing opioids to thousands of patients.

Fathallah Mashali, 62, pleaded guilty to 44 counts of healthcare fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering, according to an announcement from the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts. He will be sentenced on June 21.

The charges were brought in connection with Mashali’s scheme to defraud Medicare and other healthcare insurers and his use of the proceeds to support his extravagant lifestyle, including construction of a carriage house, outfitted with a squash court and movie theater, at his Dover home, according to the announcement.

The pain management doctor offered a brief apology for his crimes during a change-of-plea hearing in U.S. District Court in Boston, according to the Associated Press. "I'm very sorry. I hurt my family. I hurt my patients," Mashali said.

Prosecutors said the doctor prescribed opioids to patients, many of them drug abusers, often seeing more than 100 patients a day and writing prescriptions for oxycodone and other opioids without doing exams or medical tests. Prosecutors said at one point Marshali wrote more oxycodone prescriptions in one month, over 1,100, than some of the largest hospitals in Massachusetts, the AP said.

Mashali also routinely billed Medicare and private insurers for urine drug test results that were false and fraudulent, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.

“Dr. Mashali failed his patients and deceived Medicare,” Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb, said in the announcement. “He billed Medicare for patient visits and urine drug testing that he did not perform. He exposed his vulnerable patient population to significant medical risks, by refusing to properly examine them and by paying no attention to the results of their drug tests.”

His Rhode Island medical license was revoked in 2013, after the Board of Medicine found he had provided “substandard care” to six of seven patients who died, the AP reported. He then voluntarily surrendered his Massachusetts license. He was arrested in 2014, while attempting to board a plan to his native Egypt on a one-way ticket.

In court filings, Mashali's lawyer said the doctor is "deeply troubled" and has mental health issues that contributed to his conduct, the AP reported.