Physician charged in $120M fraud, money laundering case involving UFC sponsorships, luxury travel

The federal government charged physician Francisco Patino, MD, for his alleged participation in a $120 million healthcare fraud and money laundering scheme, according to a Feb. 26 announcement from the Department of Justice.

From 2008 until his arrest in 2018, Dr. Patino allegedly distributed over 2.2 million doses of controlled substances that were medically unnecessary and forced patients — including Medicare beneficiaries — to submit to medically unnecessary, harmful back injections in exchange for those controlled substances.

As the owner and operator of numerous pain clinics and labs in Michigan, Dr. Patino was allegedly the state's top prescriber of oxycodone 30 milligrams and knowingly prescribed opioids to patients who were addicted to narcotics. He was also allegedly aware that the ownership structure of his clinics, where he ordered unnecessary urine tests in exchange for illegal kickbacks, violated Stark and anti-kickback laws.

In emails, Dr. Patino wrote about attempting to hide the alleged scheme by portraying himself as a legitimate physician so he could avoid "Federal Prison & having all our assets seized to pay a 15 million dollar fine."

This attempt entailed using hundreds of thousands of dollars he received from $120 million in medically unnecessary Medicare claims to sponsor Ultimate Fighting Championship world champions and hall-of-famers, heavily promote his diet book, and appear as a medical expert on a nationally syndicated television show, federal prosecutors said.

Dr. Patino also allegedly used the proceeds to live an "extravagant lifestyle" involving luxury clothes, real estate and multiple trips to the Cayman Islands.

Dr. Patino's trial is set to begin April 7. He faces one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, one count of money laundering, two counts of healthcare fraud, and one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. by paying and receiving kickbacks.

The case stems from an investigation into the Tri-County Network of pain clinics in Michigan and Ohio, in connection to which 22 physicians, including 12 physicians, have pleaded guilty or been found guilty at trial.

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