Josh Burns, 40, of Dexter, Michigan, pleaded guilty on Oct. 11, 2018 for his part in a $112 million health-care fraud case involving an alligator-wrestling doctor.
Burns is a former bare-knuckle brawler and heavyweight mixed martial artist. He quietly answered “Yes, ma’am” when questioned by Chief U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood about his role in one of the largest healthcare fraud schemes in U.S. history, according to Detroit News.
The former MMA fighter admitted to funneling kickbacks and bribes to Dr. Francisco Patino in return for referring urine samples for drug tests that cost Medicare more than $2.6 million.
Burns could face up to 46 months in prison when he is sentenced on April 9. He has already agreed to pay $144,000 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He has also agreed to cooperate with the government.
The government is prosecuting Patino, 63, of Woodhaven. He was indicted in June and accused of orchestrating the conspiracy. Prosecutors portrayed Patino as a “conniving crook with lies as big as his biceps, an alligator-wrestling, steroid-buying, frequently shirtless fraudster who spent ill-gotten gains on MMA fighters and a vanily diet program.”
Patino hid millions of dollars in offshore bank accounts. He also threatened to “break the legs” of one associate while entrapping another with exotic dancers, according to prosecutors. His trial is in March. He is awaiting trial in a Milan federal prison.
Burns admitted that he conspired with Patino and others to solicit kickbacks and bribes in exchange for ordering urine drug tests from Nevada and Colorado. According to the plea deal, Patino disguised the source and nature of the kickbacks and bribes by ordering Burns to collect the money and pay for a variety of expenses, which included sponsoring and endorsing MMA fighters and boxers.
The probe into Patino is linked to a $200 million health care fraud case that involves businessman Mashiyat Rashid. Prosecutors say he spent his share of the money on a $7 million Franklin mansion, NBA tickets courtside, a Lamborghini, Hermes clothing, and rare watches.
It is anticipated that Rashid, 38, will plead guilty to unspecified charges when he goes to federal court on Monday.
During the investigation into Rashid, agents for the federal government seized over $21 million in cash and real estate and indicated the mansion should be forfeited to the government.
According to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, Rashid is listed as the resident agent of Global Quality on a business filling in 2011. The same filing names him as company president also. However, according to federal prosecutors, Patino controlled and operated the company.
Global Quality was part of a web of companies Patino used in a scheme to defraud Medicare. The government alleges that opioids were distributed, and experimental back injections were administered.
Justice Department trial attorney Jacob Foster stated during a recent court hearing that “He required vulnerable patients to submit to these injections even if they didn’t need them or didn’t want them. But he told them they had to have them if they wanted to obtain pain medication.” They were lucrative and frequent.
The federal investigation has caused Patino’s bank accounts to be frozen, while millions are still missing, including $2,190,562.84 cash that was withdrawn from financial institutions, Foster noted.
From 2016 to 2017, Patino wrote prescriptions for over 2.2 million pills. These prescriptions included oxycodone, fentanyl, and oxymorphone. According to the indictment, some of the drugs ended up being resold on the street.
Patino was Michigan’s top prescriber of oxycodone 30 mg. Brian Lennon, Patino’s lawyer claims there is a simple explanation. He says that Patino’s prescription pads were stolen. Prescriptions were given to people who were not his patients because someone was using his U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration number.
During a recent court hearing, Lennon said, “This indictment is full of misstatements.”
By Jeanette Smith
Detroit News: Beefy MMA brawler taps out in $112M conspiracy case