Hammond, IN-(ENEWSPF)- A suspended physician who owned weight loss clinics in northwest Indiana and south suburban Chicago was sentenced to two years in federal prison for illegally dispensing millions of pills containing amphetamine-based controlled substances to patients, and he and his wife were also sentenced for federal income tax evasion relating to their operation of the clinics. The defendants, DR. Rakesh Anand and Meena Anand, who owned and managed Doctors Weight Loss Clinics in Merrillville, Indiana, and Tinley Park and Orland Park in Illinois, were also ordered to pay $745,872 in restitution to the IRS from nearly $5.2 million that was seized from them and ordered forfeited.
Rakesh Anand, 57, a suspended physician in Illinois and who was also licensed in Indiana, and his wife, Meena Anand, 53, both of Tinley Park, were sentenced July 18 by U.S. District Judge Joseph S. Van Bokkelen in federal court in Hammond after both defendants pleaded guilty in January. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago is handling the prosecution in the Northern District of Indiana. Judge Van Bokkelen fined Rakesh Anand $750,000 and ordered him to begin serving his two-year sentence on August 30. Meena Anand was fined $100,000 and ordered to begin serving her 30-day sentence on September 3.
In addition to the fines, forfeiture, and restitution, the Anands remain civilly liable to the Internal Revenue Service for any and all back taxes and a civil fraud penalty of up to 75 percent of the underpayment plus interest.
The Anands had agreed and the judge ordered them to pay restitution of $745,872 to the IRS for taxes they owed on nearly $2 million of unreported income between 2005 and 2008. The restitution is to be paid from funds frozen in a brokerage account when the Anands were indicted in August 2011. In addition, they agreed to forfeit more than $4.45 million in additional funds that were frozen or seized during the investigation, bringing to nearly $5.2 million the total amount of funds being applied to forfeiture and restitution.
Rakesh Anand admitted that between January 2002 and February 2010, he and another physician, Dr. Dinesh Saraiya, purchased and dispensed more than one million pills containing phendimetrazine, a Schedule III controlled substance, and more than three million pills containing phentermine, a Schedule IV controlled substance. The Anands grossed more than $5 million from their operation of the three weight loss clinics.
(Saraiya, 75, of Tinley Park, cooperated in the case and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 30 in federal court in Chicago.)
According to court records, between 2002 and February 2010, Rakesh Anand hired Saraiya, who agreed with him to illegally dispense the amphetamine-based controlled substances as weight loss medications to patients without performing physical examinations or any medical tests and without reviewing patients’ records, obtaining a complete medical history, or providing any subsequent monitoring. In return, Rakesh Anand paid Saraiya based on how many patients he saw and how many pills he dispensed to patients on a daily basis. In dispensing the medications, Rakesh Anand and Saraiya failed to determine whether patients had first made a reasonable effort to lose weight through diet and exercise, a prerequisite to prescribing controlled substances for weight loss. In some instances, Rakesh Anand employed clerks to dispense the controlled substances even though he was not present and had not consulted with them.
During the course of the investigation, several undercover law enforcement agents, including two with slight builds and body mass indexes well below the obesity level, purchased controlled substances at the clinics without any of the appropriate medical protocols.
The sentences were announced by Gary S. Shapiro, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Indiana State Police.
The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew Schneider, Diane Berkowitz, and Orest Szewciw.