Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Massachusetts
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, August 7, 2020
Lexington Doctor and Office Manager Indicted in International Money Laundering Scheme Involving Non-Approved Drugs
BOSTON – A Lexington doctor and his wife, who works as his office manager, were charged in an international money laundering scheme involving importing illegal drugs.
Rahim Shafa, 62, and Nahid “Nina” Tormosi Shafa, 62, were each indicted on one count of international money laundering conspiracy. Shafa was also indicted on three counts of money laundering, one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, three counts of importing merchandise contrary to law and one count of receiving and delivering misbranded drugs with an intent to defraud and mislead. The defendants will make an initial appearance in federal court in Worcester this afternoon.
“In order to make money, the defendants allegedly circumvented mandatory FDA drug inspections and took advantage of vulnerable patients who sought to escape addiction through legitimate treatment,” said United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling.
“Distributing illegally imported prescription drugs of unknown origin and ingredients instead of FDA-approved drugs places the U.S. public health at risk,” said Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey J. Ebersole, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations New York Field Office. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners and bring to justice those who attempt to subvert FDA requirements, which are designed to ensure the safety and quality of drugs distributed to American consumers.”
According to the indictment, Shafa was a psychiatrist who owned and operated Novel Psychopharmacology in Milford and Natick and Tormosi Shafa was the office manager. From approximately January 2008 through January 2018, Shafa and Tormosi Shafa engaged in an international money laundering scheme to purchase naltrexone pellet implants, disulfiram pellet implants and disulfiram injections from Hong Kong. Disulfiram is used to treat alcohol dependence and naltrexone is used to treat alcohol and opioid dependence. Disulfiram and naltrexone are approved by the FDA in certain forms; however, the forms of the drugs that Shafa and Tormosi Shafa allegedly purchased are not approved by the FDA. Shafa and Tormosi Shafa offered these drugs for sale to patients of Novel.
It is further alleged that Shafa engaged in a conspiracy to defraud the United States by falsifying shipping documents to make the packages containing the drugs shipped from Hong Kong to Shafa in Massachusetts look like lawful imports. For example, packages containing naltrexone pellet implants were falsely declared as ‘plastic beads in plastic tubes’ in shipping documents.
“We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure that all medical providers properly follow healthcare rules and regulations,” said Phillip M. Coyne, Special Agent in Charge, Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Boston Regional Office. “I appreciate the partnership with the Massachusetts U.S Attorney’s Office in identifying and prosecuting this type of fraud.”
The charges of money laundering and money laundering conspiracy provide for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The charge of conspiracy to defraud provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The charge of importing merchandise contrary to law provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The charge of receiving and delivering a misbranded drug with an intent to defraud and mislead provides for a sentence of up to three years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Lelling; FDA-OIC SAC Ebersole; Colonel Christopher Mason, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police; HHS-OIG SAC Coyne; and Michael Shea, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Boston made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorney John T. Mulcahy of Lelling’s Worcester Branch Office is prosecuting the case.
The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.