MMA brawler taps out in $112M conspiracy
Detroit — A former heavyweight mixed martial artist and bare-knuckle brawler pleaded guilty Thursday for his role in a $112 million health-care fraud case involving an alligator-wrestling doctor.
Josh Burns, 40, of Dexter, his elaborate tattoos and bulging muscles covered by a purple dress shirt, quietly answered “yes, ma’am” when questioned by Chief U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood about his role in one of the largest health care fraud schemes in U.S. history.
Burns admitted funneling kickbacks and bribes to Dr. Francisco Patino in return for referring urine samples for drug tests that cost Medicare more than $2.6 million.
The former fighter faces up to
46 months in prison when sentenced April 9. He has agreed to pay $144,000 restitution to the U.S.
Department of Health and Human
Services. Burns has agreed to cooperate with the government, which is prosecuting Patino, 63, of Woodhaven. Patino was indicted in June, accused of orchestrating the conspiracy.
Prosecutors portrayed Patino as a conniving crook with lies as big as his biceps, an alligator-wrestling, steroid-buying fraudster who spent ill-gotten gains on mixed martial arts fighters and a diet program.
Patino is a lying bully who hid millions of dollars in offshore bank accounts while threatening to “break the legs” of one associate and entrapping another with exotic dancers, prosecutors said.
He is being held without bond in a federal prison in Milan while awaiting trial in March.
Burns admitted conspiring with Patino and others to solicit kickbacks and bribes in exchange for ordering urine drug tests from laboratories in Colorado and Nevada.
The Patino probe
is linked to a $200 million health care fraud case involving businessman Mashiyat Rashid, who prosecutors say spent his share of the scheme on a $7 million Franklin mansion, courtside NBA tickets, a Lamborghini, Hermes clothes and rare watches.
Rashid, 38, is expected to plead guilty to unspecified charges Monday in federal court.
During the Rashid investigation, federal agents seized more than $21 million worth of cash and real estate and signaled Rashid’s mansion should be forfeited to the government. Rashid was listed as resident agent of Global Quality on a state business filing in 2011, according to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
The same filing also lists Patino as company president.
Global Quality was part of a web of companies Patino used in a scheme that defrauded Medicare by distributing opioids and administering experimental back injections, the government alleges.
“He required vulnerable patients to submit to these injections even if they didn’t need them or didn’t want them,” Justice Department trial attorney Jacob Foster said during a recent court hearing. “But he told them they had to have them if they wanted to obtain pain medication.”
While investigators have frozen Patino’s bank accounts, millions are missing, the prosecutor said.
“There are millions of dollars unaccounted for, including over $2,190,562.84 in cash that has been withdrawn from financial institutions,” Foster said.
There is a simple explanation, Patino’s lawyer Brian Lennon said.
Patino’s prescription pads were stolen and people who were not his patients received prescriptions by someone using his U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration number, Lennon said.
“This indictment is full of misstatements,” he said during a recent court hearing.
Josh Burns pleaded guilty Thursday in a fraud case.