They were supposed to do no harm.
But like the pill addicts they preyed on, hundreds of Michigan doctors got hooked on greed, fueling an opioid epidemic that kills more than 130 Americans a day.
Federal authorities say metro Detroit doctors are among the leading culprits behind the opioid crisis, writing thousands of phony pain pill prescriptions, billing the government for millions, and flooding the streets with highly addictive drugs that kill more people in Michigan than both guns and car accidents.
The wrongdoers are many: An emergency room doctor who got tired of long work hours and joined a pill mill. A cardiologist who turned into a drug dealer after facing bankruptcy. A surgeon who allegedly got patients hooked on pain pills, then forced them to undergo painful procedures to get more pills.
It’s been a lucrative scheme for many doctors and their cohorts: Private jet trips. Mansions. Luxury cars. Designer clothes and watches.
But the feds have caught on, and they’re locking crooked doctorsup in record numbers. Over the last decade, more than 100 doctors have been charged with health care fraud and/or unlawful pill prescribing.
Data shows one Michigan doctor goes to prison every month for health care fraud. According to the Department of Justice, more doctors and pharmacists have been sentenced in southeastern Michigan for fraud than in any other state, except New York.
The average sentence is four years, the highest 45, handed down in 2014 to Oakland County cancer specialist Farid Fata, who intentionally misdiagnosed people with cancer, pumped them with unnecessary chemotherapy and raked in $17 million in fraudulent billings.