Four people, including two doctors, were charged Tuesday with operating a pill-mill scheme by stealing the Medicaid information of homeless people and veterans living in three Tioga rowhouses and writing fake prescriptions in their names, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced Tuesday.
Between 2015 and 2017, the two physicians allegedly wrote 1,009 fraudulent prescriptions for oxycodone and Xanax, totaling 99,753 pills with a street value of nearly $2 million, under the names of more than 100 tenants living in the three properties. The scheme cost Medicaid nearly $30,500, officials said.
Emmanuel Okolo, 53, of Ambler, and Mohanad Fallouh, 51, of Blue Bell, doctors at Carriage House Medical Group in Flourtown, were each charged with 388 counts of Medicaid fraud, identity theft, conspiracy to administer a controlled substance, and related charges.
Evelyn “Tracie” Smith, 54, who owned and managed the “group homes” on the 3500 block of North 18th Street in Tioga, was charged with the same crimes for allegedly working with the doctors and providing them with the personal identification and Medicaid numbers of hundreds of her tenants.
Kent Hunter, of Philadelphia, a cousin of Smith’s, faces 193 counts, including conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance, identity theft, and related crimes for allegedly working as an accomplice.
Smith, of Camden, required her tenants to provide their IDs, Social Security, and Medicaid cards upon moving in, according to court records, then gave the information to the doctors. Tenants told investigators that in some cases, their residences were ransacked and their IDs stolen while they weren’t home.
“They poured fuel onto the fire of the opioid crisis,” Shapiro said at a news conference at his Center City office.
“This was a massive operation that breached good faith and breached the Pennsylvania law,” he said. “And they did so knowing they were preying on some of the most vulnerable.”
Neither Okolo’s attorney, Michael Ryan, nor Fallouh’s attorney, Mohamed Bakry, could be reached for comment. Lawyers for Smith and Hunter were not listed in court records.
Most of the time, Okolo and Fallouh allegedly wrote the prescriptions without having met the patients for whom they were prescribing the medication.
Other times, Smith allegedly told her tenants that they should visit Okolo to have their health evaluated, according to the records. The tenants told investigators that Smith would drive them to Okolo’s office, or Okolo and Fallouh would visit the Tioga homes, for the “check-ups.”
The doctors would briefly evaluate them, then write the oxycodone or Xanax prescriptions, which then allegedly were handed to Smith. Tenants told investigators they never received the prescriptions. Residents who confronted Smith about the scheme often faced threats of eviction or were offered money, the records show.
Once the prescriptions were written, Smith would drive Hunter to various pharmacies, where she often had arranged agreements with the pharmacists that as the “caregiver” of “veterans and homeless individuals,” she was permitted to pick up their prescriptions without them present, according to the records. Pharmacists said Hunter often picked up 30 to 40 prescriptions at one time.
Authorities were alerted to the activity after a tenant went to pick up a legal prescription and the pharmacist noticed numerous other prescriptions filled in the tenant’s name, of which the tenant was unaware. The pharmacist then alerted AmeriHealth insurance, which alerted the Department of Human Services, which contacted the Attorney General’s Office.