Dr. Francisco Patino was convicted Wednesday for his role in a $100 million fraud scheme that defrauded Medicare and other health care insurance programs. The 66-year-old Michigan doctor, who ran his private practice in Livonia, was found guilty by a federal jury and is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 20, 2022. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The eccentric doctor, named PatinoDiet on Facebook, is known for his extreme lifestyle which included wrestling alligators and posing shirtless next to bikini-clad models. Now the alligator-wrestling doctor faces life in prison for his more than $100 million fraud scheme.
According to the Department of Justice, Francisco Patino, (Also known as Frank Patino), masterminded and executed the health care scheme. He “excessively prescribed highly addictive opioids to his patients at his medical clinic in Livonia.” In exchange for the opioids, “his patients would receive (or be billed as if they had received) facet joint or nerve block injections, both lucrative spinal injections.”
At trial, evidence showed that the spinal injections, which are used to treat chronic pain, were injected into patients “without regard to medical necessity.” If the patients refused to get the injections – or claim to their insurance company that they had – Francisco Patino would withhold future opioid prescriptions.
The Department of Justice said that “from January 2012 through July 2017, Patino billed Medicare for more of these injections than any provider in the country. The evidence at trial also showed that in 2016 and 2017, Patino prescribed more 30-milligram Oxycodone pills than every other provider in the state of Michigan.”
It was also reported that an indictment showed that 2.2 million pills that Patino prescribed from 2016 to 2017 were resold on the street. These pills included extremely addictive drugs such as fentanyl.
Francisco Patino was convicted Wednesday of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, two counts of health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and one count of money laundering.
The Michigan doctor used the fraudulent insurance funds to support his other business, which he aptly named the Patino Diet. He used the illegally acquired funds to promote his special diet program, as well as his lifestyle and wellness book.
He funded advertisements and brand deals with the Ultimate Fighting Champion (UFC), as well as other mixed martial arts fighters who promoted his Patino Diet. Patino also allegedly used his fraudulent funds to pay for expensive jewelry, cars, and vacations, which he often bragged about on his social media pages.
Beyond the $100 million fraud scheme, Francisco Patino also developed a relationship with a diagnostic laboratory in which he received illegal kickbacks in exchange for referring patients’ samples to that lab. The labs then funneled money into the bank accounts of Patino’s acquaintances or business partners who then either funneled back to him or “spent it on his behalf,” according to the DOJ.
It was previously reported that Patino’s lawyer claimed that Patino did not prescribe the opioids illegally and insisted that someone had stolen his prescription pads instead. The attorney told the court that the thief was the one who made the excessive and fraudulent oxycodone prescriptions using Patino’s DEA Registration Number.
It was reported that Francisco Patino was originally arrested in 2018. His trial was originally postponed in August after Chief U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood was forced to quarantine after her potential exposure to Covid-19. It was also said that Patino contracted Covid-19 during the trial and tried to use that to be released. His attempt was unsuccessful.