Joaquin Mendez, M.D., sentenced to 4 years in prison for drug abuse treatment fraud

Florida doctor Joaquin Mendez will go to prison for his part in a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme.

A Florida doctor was sentenced to four years in prison in a multimillion-dollar healthcare fraud case involving sober homes and alcohol and drug addiction treatment centers.

Joaquin Mendez, M.D., 52, was the medical director of Reflections Treatment Center in Margate, where he ordered hundreds of unnecessary urine and saliva drug tests for center patients, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.

Mendez earlier this year pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud. In addition to the prison sentence, he was ordered to pay more than $2 million in restitution for his participation in the fraud and money laundering scheme that involved the filing of fraudulent insurance claim forms, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Mendez was part of a drug abuse treatment fraud scheme operated by co-defendant Kenneth Chatman, 47, who is serving 27 years in federal prison after he admitted he set up a massive operation at sober houses and substance abuse treatment centers in Florida.

Prosecutors said Chatman hired doctors, including Mendez, to serve as medical directors of his treatment centers. Mendez was purportedly responsible for evaluating patients and prescribing treatment and testing. Instead, Chatman dictated the type and frequency of laboratory testing for patients, based upon kickbacks and bribes he received from different clinical labs.

RELATED: Attorney General Jeff Sessions targets medical professionals in 12 U.S. opioid epidemic ‘hot spots’

Mendez’s sentencing is another example of medical professionals facing criminal charges in drug cases.

In light of the country’s opioid epidemic, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said his department will not let up on efforts to go after doctors and other medical professionals who overprescribe opioids. The government is expanding efforts of its Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, which is designed to combat the overprescribing of opioid painkillers, and has assigned 12 prosecutors to focus solely on opioid-related fraud cases in a dozen hot-spot locations around the country.