Thursday, August 31, 2017
Acting United States Attorney Steve Butler of the Southern District of Alabama announced today that Dr. Rassan M. Tarabein, 58, a neurologist residing in Fairhope, Alabama, pled guilty before Chief United States District Judge Kristi K. DuBose to one count of health care fraud and one count of unlawful distribution of a schedule II controlled substance. As part of his plea agreement, Dr. Tarabein will no longer be able to practice medicine and prescribe controlled substances in the United States. Chief Judge DuBose has scheduled sentencing for March 2, 2018. Dr. Tarabein faces up to ten years in prison for health care fraud and up to twenty years in prison for unlawfully distributing a controlled substance.
On June 28, 2017, a federal grand jury for the Southern District of Alabama returned a 22–count superseding indictment against Dr. Tarabein, charging him with health care fraud, making false statements relating to health care matters, lying to a federal agent, unlawfully distributing schedule II controlled substances, and money laundering. He was arrested two days later.
Dr. Tarabein previously operated the Eastern Shore Neurology and Pain Center, a private clinic in Daphne, Alabama where he offered services relating to neurology and pain management, such as spinal injections. In his plea agreement, Dr. Tarabein admitted that from around 2004 to May 2017, he ran an insurance scam in which he induced patients to visit his clinic so that he could bill health care benefit programs for medically unnecessary tests and procedures. The purpose of Dr. Tarabein’s admitted scheme was to maximize personal financial gain by fraudulently seeking payments from health care benefit programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, Humana, UnitedHealthcare, and other private insurers. As part of his guilty plea, Dr. Tarabein admitted to violating the traditional standards of care in his medical practice by, for example, failing to provide informed consent to patients about procedures, discriminating against Alabama Medicaid patients in services rendered, fraudulently documenting patient records, submitting false claims to insurance companies, and issuing prescriptions for schedule II controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose.
Dr. Tarabein has pending state criminal charges in Montgomery County, Alabama. On June 16, 2017, a state grand jury returned a 2–count indictment against Dr. Tarabein, charging him with Medicaid fraud and theft of property in the first degree, each a felony offense. On September 20, 2017, Dr. Tarabein is expected to plead guilty in state court to Medicaid fraud.
Acting United States Attorney Butler stated, “Today’s guilty plea reinforces our office’s dedication to protecting the public from corrupt physicians. Doctors who exploit patients through medically unnecessary services to line their own pockets have no place in our health care system. I commend the investigators who unraveled Dr. Tarabein’s scam for their commitment to uproot health care fraud.”
Attorney General Steve Marshall stated, “I am pleased that my Medicaid Fraud Control Unit had the opportunity to team with our federal law enforcement colleagues to investigate and bring to justice this defendant who not only violated his oath to his patients, but stole taxpayer money set aside to provide care for our most vulnerable citizens. I am grateful to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Alabama for its speedy resolution of the federal charges, as this defendant is held to account for his actions.”
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge Robert E. Lasky stated, “The FBI stands ready to work alongside our state, local, and federal partners to eliminate prescription drug abuse. When doctors place money before the well-being of their patients, this task becomes nearly impossible. This guilty plea is a testament to all the hard work and cooperation between the agencies that conducted this investigation.”
“The abuse of prescription drugs is a serious problem in our communities. All too often, this abuse leads to addiction, shattered lives, and even death. For the health and safety of our citizens, DEA and our law enforcement partners will continue to target those who illegally distribute these potentially dangerous drugs. We hope that the conviction of Dr. Tarabein serves as a reminder to anyone who might illegally divert pharmaceuticals that they will be held accountable for the harm they cause,” said Stephen G. Azzam, Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s New Orleans Field Division.
“Today’s plea should serve as a wake-up call to those who intend to bill the government for medically unnecessary services and thereby enriching their own bottom line,” said Special Agent in Charge Derrick L. Jackson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG). “The nation is facing a very serious prescription drug crisis and the OIG, along with our state and federal law enforcement partners, take allegations such as these very seriously.”
The FBI, DEA, OIG, and Alabama Medicaid Fraud Control Unit are investigating the federal case. Assistant United States Attorneys Sinan Kalayoglu and Gregory A. Bordenkircher are prosecuting the federal case in coordination with the Office of the Alabama Attorney General, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. Assistant Attorney General Bruce M. Lieberman is prosecuting the state case.