According to federal prosecutors, Dr.Fathalla Mashali was prescribing oxycodone and other powerful opioid painkillers at alarming rates to people making risky use of drugs. In one month, he wrote out more oxycodone prescriptions than some of the largest hospitals in Massachusetts.
A guilty plea:
On Wednesday, Mashali pleaded guilty to 44 counts of health care fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering. During his change-of-plea hearing in U.S. District Court, he offered a brief apology saying “I’m very sorry. I hurt my family. I hurt my patients.”
Federal sentencing guidelines call for 12½ to 15½ years in prison, according to prosecutors. June 21st is the scheduled date for Mashali’s entencing
A crackdown by prosecutors have been underway on “pill mills” similar to Mashali’s pain management clinic. The clinics hand out prescriptions without physical exams or tests to determine whether a legitimate condition requires pain medication.
Mashali might see more than 100 patients in one day, according to Boston prosecutors. Investigators were told by a medical assistant who worked at one of Mashali’s offices that only about 5% of patients had legitimate medical conditions.
Born in Egypt, Mashali, 62, received his medical degree from Cairo University. More than 30 years ago, he moved to the United States and became a permanent resident. After getting married and having 4 children, he served as a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve.
A lavish lifestyle:
Mashali started his pain management clinic in the early 2000s. He opened three offices in Massachusetts and one in Rhode Island. In 2008, he filed for bankruptcy, listing $12 million in debts.
Mashali used the proceeds from his thriving practice to pay for a lavish lifestyle, according to prosecutors. In 2011, he and his wife bought a $2.2 million home in Dover, one of the wealthiest towns in Massachusetts, and made approximately $2 million in improvements. “Mashali’s lust for exuberant wealth and luxury severely compromised the care and safety of his vulnerable patients,” prosecutors wrote in a trial brief last month.
In 2012, Mashali’s practice started falling apart, after his former employees stated he was prescribing high doses of drugs to patients with addictions and falsely billing for tests he never did.
The Rhode Island Board of Medicine revoked his medical license in 2013, citing he provided “substandard care” to six of seven patients who died. After that, Mashali voluntarily submitted his Massachusetts license.
On February 7th 2014, he was arrested while trying to flee to Egypt.
Mashali’s lawyers claimed he has severe bipolar disorder and neurosarcoidosis, a central nervous system disease that can be characterized by confusion or dementia. Mashali confirmed it and said he’s taking more than 20 medicines for those illnesses, along with anxiety and depression.
Despite Assistant U.S. Attorney Maxim Grinberg requesting Mashali to be taken into custody while awaiting sentencing, Judge Rya Zobel ordered him to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet and let him remain free so he can receive daily treatment at a psychiatric hospital.