Ohio physician is sentenced for his role in an interstate opioid scheme.
Dayton, Ohio, doctor, Morris Brown, 73, was sentenced to two years in prison this month for his role in illegally distributing opioids, according to federal officials. Authorities said Brown dispensed 1.75 million pills over a two-year period in connection with an opioid ring. He pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful distribution of controlled substances on Feb. 21, 2020 before U.S. District Judge Walter Rice of the Southern District of Ohio, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, and “continued to prescribe opioids even after learning that some of his patients had experienced overdoses, and in some cases, deaths.”
When he pleaded guilty in 2020, Brown admitted that he was overprescribing to patients and issuing opioids for extended lengths of time without a legitimate reason. He admitted he “prescribed controlled substances to patients in amounts and for lengths of time that were outside the scope of legitimate medical practice.” He also indicated he was “prescribing controlled substances even after red flags suggested he should stop writing those prescriptions for patients” and “prescribing a dangerous combination of drugs known to heighten the risk of overdose and death.,” according to the Department of Justice.
Brown was charged as part of a ring with Ismail Abuhanieh, 50, of Phoenix, Arizona; Mahmoud Elmiari, 44, of Bellbrook, Ohio; Yohannes Tinsae, 48, of Beavercreek, Ohio; and Mahmoud Rifai, 50, of Detroit, Michigan in April 2019. He owned and operated Dayton Primary and Urgent Care Center Inc. and leased a space within the Dayton Pharmacy, which Abuhanieh, Elmiari, Tinsae and Rifai co-operated.
In June of last year, authorities in the tri-county Michigan area of Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne counties apprehended 19 individuals involved in a $41 million opioid distribution scheme in which authorities contended they distributed nearly 2 million pills. The group of offenders, investigators say, prescribed controlled substances, such as oxycodone, oxymorphone, oxycodone-acetaminophen (Percocet), hydrocodone, hydrocodone-acetaminophen and promethazine with codeine cough syrup, to patients for “no apparent medical need.”
“Some of the pharmacists would bill insurance companies, including Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers, to dispense the pills, even though they were medically unnecessary,” indicate court records. “Those billed to the government-run programs Medicare and Medicaid exceeded $146,000. The pharmacists would also accept cash from recruiters for filling and dispensing medicine.”
The opioid ring included pharmacists, physicians, and nurse practitioners across the three counties. Much like the ring Brown was involved with, multiple parties worked together to defraud the system and fuel the opioid crisis.
“Each of those prescribers knowingly prescribed prescription drug, controlled substances outside the course of legitimate medical practice and for no legitimate medical purpose, in furtherance of the scheme,” the indictment stated.
“Prescription drugs are supposed to go to people who truly need them, not to fake patients or people selling drugs on the streets,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said. “We are focusing on charging doctors, pharmacists and the networks that add to the opioid crisis, and this case is unfortunately yet another example of the serious problem” that is affecting Michigan, Ohio, and other states across the U.S.