Uptown medical clinic owners pleads guilty to selling $580K of illegal opioids

The former owner of an Uptown neighborhood medical clinic pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to selling over $580,000 worth of illegal opioid prescriptions.

Mohammed Shariff, 68, of Lincolnwood, pleaded guilty to a felony count of conspiracy to knowingly dispense controlled substances outside the usual course of professional practice and without medical purposes, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois.

Shariff owned the now-shuttered Midtown Medical Center, 4527 N. Sheridan Road, and worked with Dr. Theodore Galvani to sell oxycodone, hydrocodone and other prescription pills to patients “whom they knew lacked a medical reason for taking the drugs,” prosecutors said.

At Shariff’s direction, Galvani doled out opioid prescriptions without conducting physical examinations or medical tests, prosecutors said. Galvani often met with more than 70 patients in a given day, sometimes meeting with groups of two or more people at the same time. In his plea agreement, Shariff admitted to directing a “crew leader” to organize groups of prospective patients to meet with Galvani to obtain the prescriptions.

Galvani, of Spring Grove, is awaiting sentencing after previously pleading guilty to drug conspiracy charges, prosecutors said.

Shariff’s plea agreement laid out the conspiracy, which relied on patients paying him and Galvani up to $200 in cash for prescriptions, prosecutors said. From February 2012 to March 2013, Shariff admitted that he and Galvani were responsible for prescribing more than two kilograms of oxycodone, more than 595,000 hydrocodone pills and more than 190,000 Xanax pills to people who did not need the drugs. During that time, the duo took in at least $584,188 through the scheme, with Shariff pocketing $292,094 for himself.

In addition, the duo prescribed pills to Medicare recipients and then submitted false claims to the program that sought reimbursement for purported office visits, prosecutors said.

Shariff’s plea agreement also detailed a separate scheme involving Home Health Resource LLC, an Elgin-based health care company that he owned, prosecutors said. During a 2016 meeting in Chicago, Shariff offered to pay a physician $500 each time the doctor certified a Medicare recipient for home health care and referred the patient to his company, according to the plea agreement. During the meeting, Shariff claimed that he had arranged for his employees to hide the fact that the Medicare recipients were not actually eligible for home care. Shariff also told the physician that he had coached nurses to “tell the patients you are homebound.”

All the while, the physician was cooperating with law enforcement and recording their conversation, prosecutors said.

Shariff faces up to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $1 million, prosecutors said. His sentencing was set for March 19.