Texas Pharmacist Sentenced for Benefit Fraud

It takes some real teamwork to fleece the U.S. Department of Labor out of tens of millions of dollars. Nermin Awad El-Hadik, unfortunately, was an integral part of the team. On June 29, Ms. El-Hadik, owner of a Houston pharmacy, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas to five years in prison and three years of probation for paying more than $5 million in kickbacks to a Texas-based medical provider in return for referrals who then could be overcharged on prescriptions. She also was ordered to pay restitution. The kickbacks were part of a much larger scam to create fake or exaggerated worker’s compensation claims. El-Hadik had pleaded guilty in November 2016. The action follows a probe by the FBI, Army, Postal Service and Labor Department.

Nermin El-Hadik, now 42, a resident of Bellaire, Tex., was the owner-operator of Hope Pharmacy in Houston. During March-December 2015, she and other health care providers paid kickbacks totaling $5,334,303.04 to Garry Craighead, an Austin-based chiropractor, owner of a chain of physical rehab clinics across Texas. In return, Craighead steered worker’s compensation patients, many of them covered by union health plans, to these providers, who in turn would inflate the prices of prescribed drug compounds. It was a sweet deal all the way around, except for U.S. taxpayers who effectively covered Department of Labor losses. Craighead pleaded guilty to two criminal counts in December 2015 and was sentenced in June 2016 to 14 years in prison and ordered to pay the DOL $17,908,170 in monetary restitution. The biggest fish was Tshombe Anderson, a Dallas-based union lawyer and owner of several medical supply companies. He was sentenced this past April to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $26 million in restitution.