A Florida doctor was sentenced to six years in federal prison this week for his role in a
scheme to defraud a trust fund set up to compensate victims of the Fen-Phen diet drug.
U.S. District Court Judge Juan R. Sanchez, sitting in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, ordered Abdur Razzak Tai, 79, to serve 72 months behind bars and pay restitution in the amount of $4.5 million for his crimes, according to the court record.
Tai, who practiced cardiology through Tri-County Doctors Inc. and Medical Legal Consultants Inc., was convicted in federal court in Philadelphia in the fall of 2011 on six counts of mail fraud and seven counts of wire fraud.
According to federal prosecutors, between 1997 and 2009, Tai had devised a scheme to defraud the trust that had been set up by drug manufacturer Wyeth to pay benefits to people injured by Fen-Phen.
The trust was established following a class action settlement entered into by Wyeth following allegations that people were becoming injured by taking the diet drug.
In Tai’s case, the doctor 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, when in reality many of the claimants had not been harmed, according to court papers.
American Home Products Corporation was Wyeth’s successor.
For at least a year, prosecutors contended, Tai was paid a set fee of $100 for each echocardiogram that he read as part of the scheme.
The physician was also to be compensated $1,500 for each claimant who qualified for benefits when that person’s claim was paid, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which prosecuted the case.
Prosecutors alleged that Tai wrote reports and signed certifications attesting that claimants had suffered heart damage on certain occasions when he knew the tests actually showed the patients were fine.
“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,” reads a news release put out by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia. “Dr. Tai certified that some patients qualified for the increased settlement benefits when he knew they did not.”
During his trial, Tai had testified that his medical reports had been forged by the mass tort lawyer who had hired him on a contingency fee basis, the record states.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office was unsure of the name of the specific attorney referred to by Tai at trial, however, the doctor's indictment says that Tai had been introduced to a number of mass tort attorneys, including one identified in the indictment only as "S.V."
The man who introduced Tai to "S.V." and other lawyers planning to file claims on behalf of allegedly injured Fen-Phen patients was also identified in the indictment by his initials, "T.H."
That man, the indictment states, was not a medical doctor, but it is also unclear whether or not he was an attorney. "T.H." was the person who approached Tai about reading the echocardiograms.
In the end, it took the federal court jury less than two hours of deliberation before they found Tai guilty on all 13 counts lodged against him.
Tai was immediately remanded into federal custody.