Putnam man charged with health care fraud

Published: Tuesday, October 1, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 1, 2002 at 12:44 a.m.
A series of false names and assumed identities allowed a Putnam County man to pass himself off as a doctor, dispense narcotics and commit millions of dollars in health care fraud, government officials allege.
Unsealed court records also say this is not the first time Mahmoud Eldick, 42, has misrepresented himself or impersonated someone.
But Eldick's attorney has called the pending case one of mistaken identity.
Agents with the FBI arrested Eldick last week, charging him with scheming to defraud health care benefit programs.
Eldick is named as officer and director of two Community Medical Center and Pharmacy clinics, one in Crescent City and another in Interlachen. Search warrants were served at both businesses Friday morning, officers confirmed. Both offices were open Monday.
In court records unsealed after his arrest, government officials allege Eldick, under the name of Mahmoud Aldique, billed claims for more than 3,300 patients from January 1993 through August. The claims totaled more than $5 million. Reimbursements exceeded $2.7 million. Of those thousands of patients, court records state, 777 have died.
Eldick is not a doctor, the government alleges, and illegally obtained a registration number with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration that he used to distribute controlled substances including Oxycodone, Hydrocodone and Hydromorphone.
If convicted, Eldick faces a maximum sentence ranging from 10 years to life in prison. The maximum sentence varies depending on whether the fraud caused a bodily injury or death, records show.
Eldick's attorney, Stephen Bernstein, said after the arrest that it appeared federal investigators confused his client with a man named Abdul Rahman Shatila, who changed his name to Mahmoud Aldique. It is Aldique who was on the Medicaid provider list of the same practice operated by Eldick and his brother Moustafa Eldick, a licensed physician who has not been arrested, Bernstein said. It is Aldique, he said, who is the subject of complaints about improper payments.
But law enforcement officials say there is no confusion, a nine-page affidavit from an FBI agent shows.
"I believe it is obvious that the name Mahmoud Aldique is merely a variation of the true identity of Mahmoud Eldick," FBI Special Agent Jeffrey Thornburg said in his affidavit.
Bernstein could not be reached Monday to comment on the affidavit.
Thornburg alleges Eldick undertook a complicated series of name changes and assumed different identities so he could defraud health care programs including Medicare, TriCare and Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
In 1995, Thornburg reports a Dr. Shatila was granted a legal name change to Mahmoud Aldique. But "questioned samples" of Shatila's signature, including one on the petition for a name change, don't match known samples of Shatila's writing.
A photo attached to Aldique's application for practicing physician privileges and sent to the Columbia-JFK Medical Center in Atlantis, just south of West Palm Beach, in 1999 shows Eldick, not Shatila, Thornburg says.
Court records document Eldick's prior criminal history, including a 1987 arrest by the Plantation Police Department for fraudulently obtaining a Florida driver's license under the name John Pierre Kaashar and a 1992 Broward County case where he was charged with two counts of operating as a pharmacist and dispensing prescriptions without a license.
Eldick, court records state, was charged with assuming the identity of a dead pharmacist named Edward Richard Webber and advising the Florida Board of Pharmacy that his name had been legally changed from Webber to Magmoud Ehlick. Eldick operated two pharmacies until his arrest. He later entered a no contest plea in that case, court records state.
An article on the case, published in the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, said investigators learned about Eldick while doing a routine background check on employees at a South Florida pharmacy where drugs had been reported missing. Eldick wasn't accused of stealing, but an investigation revealed he had attended the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy by using false documents and did not graduate. He also used aliases to take the Florida Board of Pharmacy exam six times but never passed, investigators found.
Twice, in 1987 and 1988, Eldick applied to the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates using the biographical and educational credentials of his brother, Thornburg reported. The commission is a nonprofit organization designed to assess the readiness of international medical graduates to enter accredited graduate medical education programs in the United States.
Eldick came to the United States from Beirut, Lebanon, in January 1976, immigration records show. He became a naturalized citizen in 1982.
The FBI is asking people to report billing irregularities or illegal activities related to this case by calling a tip line - (352) 367-6711.
Lise Fisher can be reached at 374-5092 or fisherl@gvillesun. com.

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