U.S. pursues case of doctor in Fen-Phen fraud

    The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia says a doctor submitted false claims to American Home Product Settlement Trust in Philadelphia. The trust funds were put into place for people harmed by a prescription weight-loss drug. He is charged with 13 counts of mail and wire fraud.

    Abdur Tai, a 77-year-old Florida cardiologist, has been charged  with signing forms certifying patients who took the diet drug Fen-Phen suffered from heart damage when they didn’t.

    Assistant United States Attorney Paul Shapiro, who is prosecuting the case, said originally only 15 percent of all Fen-Phen claims were audited.

    “The district court here ordered that 100 percent of the claims be audited and at that point forward there was a second set of eyes,”  he said. “Prior to that there was always the possibility that claims would be paid at a very high level despite the fact that the patient was in fact not injured.”

    Shapiro wouldn’t specify how many, but said some of the claims filed by Tai were paid out.  According to the litigation, the average payment from the fund was $350,000.

    Edward Ohlbaum, a law professor at Temple University, said a mail fraud charge is easy to prove and punishment packs a punch.

     “It is one of the darlings of the prosecutors’ arsenal and you can understand why,” he said. “So they’re recognizing virtually any use of the mail, which satisfies the statute’s mailing requirements with regard to almost any type of fraud.”

    If convicted, Tai faces up to 260 years in jail and a $3 million. Fen-Phen was removed from the market back in the 1990s

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