By ED WHITE, Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) – A judge sentenced a Detroit-area man to 17 years in prison Friday for drug fraud worth millions, a sweeping scheme that was mostly hatched in Indian languages and involved more than 20 pharmacies.

Babubhai “Bob” Patel was accused of billing insurers for expensive prescriptions he never intended to give to customers. The government said he paid doctors to write the orders and also sent people to soup kitchens and homeless shelters to offer others cash in exchange for their Medicare or Medicaid number.

“Everything about this scheme was extreme. … He absolutely never imagined he would get caught,” Assistant U.S. Attorney John Neal told a judge.

Patel, who controlled the pharmacies, asked the judge for mercy. He apologized to his family but was not contrite about his convictions and said he would appeal. U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow noted the lack of remorse.

“What have you done is reprehensible,” Tarnow said.

Patel of Canton Township was ordered to pay nearly $20 million in restitution as part of his sentence, along with the 17-year prison term.

The judge noted Patel helped ruin the careers of pharmacists of Indian descent who were allowed to work in the U.S. with his sponsorship. At least 10 have been convicted in the case and eventually will be deported to Canada or India.

Secretly recorded phone conversations were a crucial part of the government’s evidence last summer. Most were in the Gujarati or Hindu languages.

Patel, a pharmacist, has deep ties to the local Indian community and was vice chairman of the Canton Hindu temple.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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