Eight months after his office in Daphne was raided by federal agents, neurologist Dr. Rassan M. Tarabein was indicted on federal and state charges on Friday alleging his Eastern Shore pain management practice has run as a “money mill” pushing addictive drugs for profit.Tarabein, who owns Eastern Shore Neurology and Pain Center, has practiced medicine in Daphne since 1996, though not without incident.
In 2004, an administrative complaint to the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners accused him of prescribing excessive pain medication.
Later, Tarabein admitted to several allegations of “immoral, unprofessional or dishonorable conduct” that included prescribing excessive amounts of opioid medications like Lortab, Percocet, Percodan, OxyContin, Tylox, and Demerol. His medical license was suspended for three years, and he was fined $40,000.
Then, last October, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI] and Drug Enforcement Administration [DEA] raided his practice on the Eastern Shore — taking boxes of files and computer equipment from the office but making no arrests.
However, Friday’s announcement from Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall was the first confirmation from authorities that Tarabein had been charged with a crime.
In separate indictments brought by state and federal prosecutors, Tarabein faces close to 30 charges alleging he used his practice to improperly distribute controlled drugs and defraud health care benefit programs like Medicaid for years for his own financial gain.
The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in Marshall’s office presented evidence to a Montgomery County grand jury that resulted in Tarabein’s indictment June 16. If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison for Medicaid fraud and a potential 20-year sentence for first-degree theft.
“I am pleased to partner with our federal law enforcement colleagues to protect precious state Medicaid resources,” Marshall said Friday. “I hope that this case will serve as a warning to others who might be tempted to steal taxpayer money allocated to protect our most vulnerable.”
While the state charges are serious, Tarabein’s 27-count federal indictment is the first public acknowledgment that the prosecutors who took down two of the area’s most prominent pain doctors earlier this year have their eyes set on a new target.In federal court, Tarabein faces charges of unlawfully distributing schedule II controlled substances, money laundering and engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity.
According to the indictment, from 2004 to late June 2017, Tarabein allegedly ran a “money mill” through Eastern Shore Neurology and Pain Center, where he “induced patients to continue [returning] so he could bill health care benefit programs for unnecessary tests and procedures.”
Prosecutors say Tarabein sought to maximize his personal financial gain by fraudulently seeking payments from health care benefit programs like Medicare and Medicaid as well as private insurers like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, Humana and UnitedHealthcare.
In doing so, the government claims Tarabein violated “the traditional standards of care in his medical practice” in a number of ways by failing to provide informed consent to patients, discriminating against Medicaid patients in services rendered, fraudulently documenting patient records and submitting false claims to insurance companies.
“As alleged, this defendant was a neurologist who ran a medical practice that for years stole millions of dollars from public health care programs and private insurance companies,” Acting United States Attorney Steve Butler said. “Federal and state investigators have worked diligently to expose the fraud, and now this physician must face the consequences of his actions.”
With the exception of the parallel state charges, Tarabein’s indictments ring familiar to those filed against Xiulu Ruan and John Patrick Couch — charges that eventually saw the doctors receive 21-year and 20-year prison sentences, respectively.