Criminal Justice News

Monday, September 17, 2012

Fen-Phen Fraud Doctor Convicted

PHILADELPHIA—Dr. Abdur Razzak Tai, 79, of Kissimmee, Florida, was convicted today of a fraud scheme involving a trust fund set up to compensate victims of the Fen-Phen diet drug. Tai, who practiced cardiology under the name A. Razzak Tai, M.D., and through Tri-County Doctors, Inc. and Medical Legal Consultants, Inc., was indicted on six counts of mail fraud and seven counts of wire fraud.

American Home Products Corporation, later known as Wyeth, entered into a class action settlement, which established a Trust to pay benefits to persons injured by Fen-Phen with money contributed by Wyeth. Between 1997 and 2009, Tai devised a scheme to defraud the Seventh Amendment, the Trust and Wyeth, and to obtain money and property from them by means of false and fraudulent representations. He reviewed the echocardiograms of more than 1,100 patients who filed claims with the American Home Product Settlement Trust in Philadelphia and falsely certified that the patients’ tests showed that they had sustained heart damage. In reality, many of those claimants had not been harmed.

For at least one lawyer, Dr. 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. Dr. 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, thereby improperly qualifying the claimant for hundreds of thousands of dollars more in benefits. Dr. Tai certified that some patients qualified for the increased settlement benefits when he knew they did not.

At trial, Dr. 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.

U.S. District Court Judge Juan R. Sanchez scheduled a sentencing hearing for December. Each count of mail and wire fraud carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The case was investigated by the FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Paul Shapiro.

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