CINCINNATI — The owner and operator of a Hamilton pain clinic has pleaded guilty to charges of illegal distribution of controlled substances, health care fraud and violating the anti-kickback statute in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati, according to the Journal-News.
Nilesh Jobalia, 54, of Cincinnati, entered a guilty plea Monday before U.S. District Judge Susan J. Dlott.
“Today Dr. Jobalia accepted responsibility for trafficking drugs by means of a prescription pad, health care fraud, and receiving kickbacks,” said Benjamin C. Glassman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio. “He faces a substantial term of imprisonment for his crimes.”
Jobalia was indicted by a federal grand jury in June 2018.
As part of his plea agreement, the parties involved in his case are recommending a sentence range of 78 to 144 months in prison.
A pre-sentence investigation has been ordered to be completed by Dec. 9. No sentencing date has been set according to court records.
Glassman was joined by Lamont Pugh III, special agent in charge, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General; Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost; Anthony Groeber, executive director, Ohio Medical Board; Steven Schierholt, executive director, Ohio Board of Pharmacy; and Stephanie B. McCloud, Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation administrator, announced the plea.
According to court documents, Jobalia owned and operated Cincinnati Centers for Pain Relief in Hamilton from March 2013 through December 2017. Although the practice was not licensed as such, it operated almost exclusively as a pain clinic.
Patients were prescribed fentanyl, oxycodone, methadone, morphine and other controlled substances on many occasions without actually being seen by the doctor.
Jobalia’s practice also billed Medicare, Medicaid and the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation for medically unnecessary prescriptions and services not rendered.
For example, prescriptions to one customer alone caused the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to pay more than $450,000 for medically unnecessary drugs. In total, Jobalia caused more than $2 million in false claim, according to officials.
“Our investigators started looking at Dr. Jobalia in 2015 for suspicious prescribing, and we’re pleased to see this case come to a just end,”McCloud said. “Even more so, we’re pleased to see him out of practice and out of the BWC system. Our injured workers are better off.”
Jobalia also received more than $103,000 from a pharmaceutical company for purported speaking engagements about a fentanyl spray, a medication intended for breakthrough cancer pain.
The speaking engagements were actually sham programs, though, in which many attendees were not medical professionals permitted to prescribe the fentanyl spray. Usually, Jobalia, some of his staff and the pharmaceutical sales representative were the only people present at the engagements, which were held at fine dining restaurants in the Cincinnati area.
“This pain relief clinic was nothing more than a front for hard drug handouts,” Yost said. “Shutting the operation down is a big win for a region that’s been hit especially hard by the opioid crisis.”
“I applaud the dedication of our agents in helping to secure this conviction,” said State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy Executive Director Schierholt. “The coordination among agencies demonstrates the importance of collaboration in addressing the criminal activity fueling Ohio’s drug epidemic.”