Morristown Neurologist to Plead Guilty in Pain Pill Conspiracy
A Morristown medical doctor who was one of the most prolific prescribers of opiate painkillers in Tennessee will not contest government allegations he transformed his neurology practice into a pill-seeker’s paradise, according to federal court documents.
Dr. Abdelrahman Mohamed, the owner and operator of Hamblen Neuroscience on West Morris Boulevard, indicated Monday he will plead guilty to conspiracy and health-care fraud charges, and pay $733,422 restitution to government-run insurance plans.
Along for the ride with the same agreement is Mohamed’s office manager, Cecilia Manacsa, who instructed the billing clerk to enter inappropriate codes to charge Medicaid, Medicare and TennCare for services not provided, court documents indicate.
Mohamed and Manacsa caused the billing clerk, who is cooperating with the U.S. attorney’s office, to submit 7,063 fraudulent bills to the Medicare and 4,320 fraudulent bills to TennCare, according to the plea agreement.
The defendants have a package deal. If either one backs out, federal prosecutors will withdraw the plea agreements, and the defendants will face greater punishment at trial.
The neurologist and his office manager plan to plead guilty “by information,” without having been indicted by a federal grand jury.
Mohamed and Manacsa distinguished themselves in the way they dealt with patients wanting prescriptions for oxycodone, Fentanyl, morphine, Opana and hydrocodone pills, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Harker.
Employees called it the “drive through,” according to the federal prosecutor.
Mohamed, who is in his mid-60s, lined a long hallway leading to his office with as many as 60 pill-seeking patients.
The doctor spent no more than two minutes with each patient and kept his office door open to quicken the process, according to his plea agreement.
A staff member routinely provided Mohamed a partially completed prescription for an opiate pain medication, which he would sign and give to the patient. The process was repeated until all “had received a prescription … in the drive through,” according to their plea agreements.
“Mohamed knew that patients commonly understood that they could obtain prescriptions for controlled substances from (Mohamed) without (him) closely scrutinizing their dubious claims that they suffered from pain,” the plea agreement states.
The snag was that the office procedure for which the doctor billed required a far greater level of care than Mohamed provided during hundreds of prescription-writing cattle calls.
Mohamed had ample warning he was in the crosshairs of Tennessee Department of Health investigators, who informed him in 2012 he was “identified as having a high rate of prescribing the controlled substance prescriptions.”
The warning escalated in 2014 when department officials communicated he was in the top 50 opiate prescribers in the state. Officials issued the identical warning in 2015, but added Mohamed was in the top 19 opiate prescribers in “small counties.”
At some point, Mohamed and Manacsa became aware they were targets in a criminal investigation. They countered with an email to all pain-management patients, telling them if they told the truth they could become entangled in a criminal inquiry.
“(Mohamed) sent this email for the purpose of influencing his … patients not to cooperate with the (health department) investigation by suggesting that such patients would lose their opioid prescriptions if they cooperated,” their plea agreement states.