Judge orders psychiatrist to Berks County Prison
By Stephanie Weaver
April 5, 2016
Senior Judge Scott D. Keller imposed a sentence for Dr. Jopinder R. Harika on March 22 even though the Allegheny County psychiatrist was not present.
Keller sentenced him to three to 23 months in Berks County Prison followed by six months of probation and to pay more than $77,600 in restitution.
Harika, 62, entered an open guilty plea before Keller on Sept. 10 to medical assistance claim fraud, tampering with public records and unlawful prescribing as a practitioner. Authorities said he committed Medicaid fraud, and practiced and wrote prescriptions while his medical license was suspended.
Keller partially sentenced Harika on Nov. 24 but had to stall the proceeding when Harika’s attorney, Jan I. Medoff of Pittsburgh, asked if the judge would consider a house arrest penalty. Keller said he would allow Medoff to explore the possibility of an alternative penalty, but if he couldn’t find one, he was sending Harika to prison. The sentencing was rescheduled for January.
The November proceeding was the last time Harika appeared before Keller.
When Harika missed two hearings in January, Medoff said his client had medical issues and was in the hospital.
Medoff gave the same explanation for Harika’s absence on March 22, but Keller was done granting delays.
Instead, the judge granted state Senior Deputy Attorney General Elizabeth M. Madigan’s request to have Harika sentenced in absentia.
He gave Harika until April 8 to begin his sentence, allowing him about three weeks to recover if he was legitimately ill.
Madigan said Keller informed her that he would entertain a bench warrant request next week if Harika does not report to prison in time.
Harika was charged by the attorney general’s office in February 2015 following an investigation.
Madigan said Harika’s license was suspended in 2012 by an Allegheny family judge after Harika failed to pay court-ordered support.
Harika saw 565 patients and wrote prescriptions for at least 450 patients during the 32-day suspension, Madigan said. The offenses took place at Reading Behavioral Health Services, Child and Family Support Services in Reading and the Multicultural Wellness Center in Philadelphia.
Authorities said that while many of the clients Harika served were not billed to Medicaid, the agencies reportedly billed Medicaid for Harika’s services and all three agencies paid him a salary.
Madigan said Harika’s restitution consists of $62,500 to the Multicultural Wellness Center, $14,100 to Community Care Behavioral Health and about $1,000 for the costs of the investigation.