Cardiologist gets 6-year prison term in Fen-Phen fraud

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Florida cardiologist Abdur Razzak Tai, MD, received a six-year sentence in a fraud scheme involving a trust fund set up to compensate victims of the diet drug Fen-Phen. Tai was convicted on six counts of mail fraud and seven counts of wire fraud.

American Home Products, later known as Wyeth, entered into a class-action settlement, which established a trust to pay benefits to people injured by Fen-Phen with money contributed by Wyeth. The recipients alleged that use of the diet drug had, or may have, adversely affected their health.

Tai, who practiced through Tri-County Doctors and Medical Legal Consultants in Kissimmee, was charged on Nov. 30, 2010, with devising a scheme to obtain money and property through false and fraudulent representations involving Fen-Phen. According to indictment, he reviewed the echocardiograms of more than 1,100 patients who filed claims with the trust in Philadelphia between 1997 and 2009 and falsely certified that the patients’ tests showed that they had sustained heart damage.

In reality, many of those claimants had not been harmed, according to the U.S. District Attorney’s Office.

For at least one lawyer, Tai was paid a set fee of $100 for each echocardiogram that he read. In addition, Tai was to be compensated $1,500 for each claimant who qualified for benefits when that patient’s claim was paid.

According to the U.S. District Attorney, Tai wrote reports and signed certifications attesting that claimants had suffered heart damage on some occasions when he knew that the tests showed that they had not and, on other occasions, when he knew that he had not personally reviewed the test results to determine whether they had suffered heart damage.

By misreporting measurements from the echocardiogram, the severity of a claimant’s medical condition could be exaggerated, improperly qualifying him or her for hundreds of thousands of dollars more in benefits. Tai certified that some patients qualified for the increased settlement benefits.

Tai testified that his medical reports had been forged by the mass-tort lawyer who had hired him and who had paid him on a contingency fee basis. The jury returned a verdict of guilty on all 13 counts after deliberating for less than two hours. He was convicted in September of 2011 and faced a maximum possible sentence of 260 years’ imprisonment.

In addition to the six-year prison term, U.S. District Court Judge Juan R. Sanchez ordered the 79-year-old Tai to pay restitution in the amount of $4.5 million, a $15,000 fine, a special assessment of $1,300, and ordered three years of supervised release.