Former Berks psychiatrist pleads guilty to writing illegal prescriptions
By Stephanie Weaver
December 12, 2015
A former Berks County psychiatrist, allegedly known on the streets as “Candyman”, admitted Friday to writing numerous illegal prescriptions for thousands of pills for patients who had no medical needs.
Standing before President Judge Paul M. Yatron, Dr. Mohammed Abdul R. Khan said he was filled with guilt and shame.
“I put myself in a situation in which I lost almost everything,” he said. “I would appreciate and ask and pray for your mercy.”
Khan, 45, of the first block of Linree Avenue, Exeter Township, pleaded guilty Friday to unlawful administration of a controlled substance by a physician, insurance fraud and conspiracy.
He told Yatron he was simply trying to do his best to take care of his fellow human beings, not abuse his patients, but he made a mistake.
He said he didn’t have a solid system of checks and balances at his business, Berks Psychiatry Inc., and was not strong enough to stop the illegal practices.
But the judge said he felt Khan was making excuses instead of taking full responsibility for his actions.
“The defendant characterized it as being a bad administrator and not strong enough to stop his staff,” Yatron said. “It’s difficult for the court to consider the course of conduct that took place over a long period of time to be some type of mistake. This was not merely a series of mistakes.”
That said, Yatron said he also didn’t believe Khan was the greedy, drug-dealing mastermind that Deputy Attorney General Christie Bonesch depicted him to be.
“I have no doubt that the defendant is not a monster and that he has many good qualities and done many great things,” the judge said. “I don’t doubt that he loves his family and children and has been active in the community.”
Given all the factors of the case, Khan’s cooperation with investigators and testimony Friday from 10 character witnesses, Yatron imposed a mitigated range sentence of two to four years in state prison, to be followed by eight years of probation.
Defense attorney Allan L. Sodomsky said he felt it was a fair sentence in the case.
“The investigation was very lengthy and trying to balance the factors on both sides was a very difficult task,” he said. “All things considered, it’s a very sad day for the Khan family. He is a tremendous asset to our community and I wish him and his family the best.”
Investigators said Khan knowingly prescribed drugs to drug-addicted patients through his business, Berks Psychiatry Inc., between January and October 2012. The prescriptions included Adderall, Ritalin and Xanax.
Undercover investigators that visited the practice were able to receive prescriptions within minutes. As patient volume escalated, investigators said Khan and his staff used electronic templates to copy and paste false medical information into patient files to justify the need for medications.
During the guilty plea, Sodomsky and Khan disagreed with Bonesch’s claim that Khan wrote or directed the writing of 3,100 prescriptions for 146,000 pills during the 10-month period and received $5.8 million. Sodomsky said some of the prescriptions were for medical necessity.
Yatron intervened to broaden the facts of the plea, with Khan admitting his practice made more than $1 million by unlawfully prescribing thousands of pills to patients.
Bonesch said the operation centered around greed, calling Khan the most successful drug dealer in Berks County.
She said many of his drug-addicted patients, some of whom she named, ended up in treatment centers, prison or, in some cases, died from combining the prescriptions with illegal drugs.
“He may wear a suit, he may wear a tie, but his prescriptions are deadly,” she said.
Sodomsky disagreed, saying that none of the drugs Khan prescribed were addictive.
He said it was important to look at Khan’s intentions, which were to help those who couldn’t seek help elsewhere. He said Khan treated cash patients because they didn’t have proper insurance, despite knowing it was wrong.
And Sodomsky said that the question should be how many more individuals would be in prison for drug-related issues if Khan had not treated their mental illnesses.
He said a lot of the unlawful activity was a result of not being able to keep up with the demand.
“His office and patient numbers grew too quickly in a community that desperately needed it,” Sodomsky said. “Regardless of what was said, he helped people.”
Sodomsky called on 10 family members, friends, colleagues and former patients to testify on Khan’s behalf. They said they knew him to be a professional who had a compassionate heart to help but had a lapse in judgement.
No questions asked
According to authorities:
County detectives began the investigation in 2011 after receiving tips about improper prescriptions from patients of Khan’s Reading practice at 146 S. Fifth St.
The state attorney general’s office got involved and investigators posing as patients visited that office and the one in Pottsville and discovered they could get prescriptions in minutes, sometimes without being asked any questions about their medical histories or prior prescriptions.
In June 2012, a detective who had previously been prescribed medication from Khan visited the Reading office with a state agent who posed as his friend.
Khan saw both patients at the same time and gave the detective a prescription for 21 pills of Xanax and 42 pills of Adderall. The agent asked Khan for an identical prescription, and Khan issued one without doing a physical or medical examination even though he was seeing that patient for the first time.
Detectives who posed as patients also observed that patients paying with cash got to see the doctor quicker than those covered by insurance.
The state attorney general’s office agents and Berks detectives raided both offices and seized patient records in October 2012. The practice was closed shortly after.
Rameeza S. Chowdhury, Khan’s office administrator, is also charged in the case.
Investigators allege Chowdhury directed associates at the practice to falsify documents and was aware that billing codes were routinely being falsified.
Chowdhury, 55, of the 1600 block of Farr Road, Wyomissing, is charged with insurance fraud, being part of a corrupt organization and related charges and is scheduled to appear before Yatron next week.