published Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

Judge scolds attorneys preparing for trial in federal pill mill case

Ihsaan al-Amin, also known as Robert O'Neil Robinson Jr., leaves the Joel W. Solomon federal building after being released on bond in Chattanooga on Tuesday. Al-Amin was arrested on federal charges of running a pill mill operation out of his office, O'Neil Medical.
Ihsaan al-Amin, also known as Robert O'Neil Robinson Jr., leaves the Joel W. Solomon federal building after being released on bond in Chattanooga on Tuesday. Al-Amin was arrested on federal charges of running a pill mill operation out of his office, O'Neil Medical.
Photo by Doug Strickland /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

A combination of statistics, computer confusion and lack of communication slapped attorneys in a federal health care fraud case in the face Tuesday when they met with the federal judge handling trial preparations.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan K. Lee chided attorneys Tuesday for not talking to each other and creating possible delays in the health care fraud, income tax evasion, money laundering and operating a criminal enterprise case of Dr. Ihsaan al-Amin.

"The court's very concerned about the progress of this case," Lee said. "This is a large document, complex case ... the resources going into this case are tremendous."

The doctor was indicted last May on the charges after federal agents seized his computers and paper records from O'Neil Medical Clinic at 4719 Brainerd Road, his pain management clinic.

Prosecutors allege that al-Amin was running a "pill mill," and from 2009 to 2010 he prescribed or dispensed pain medications such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone nearly 100 times, "not for legitimate medical purpose."

The computers and records have created a puzzle for defense attorney Rich Heinsman.

During discovery, which is when attorneys exchange evidence that's likely going to be used in trial, prosecutors provided him access to records of 33 patients of al-Amin, 15 of those patients were named in the indictment.

Heinsman has had those records reviewed and sent an office employee to scan, review and input information from a 10 percent sample of all the records seized.

But IRS agents have only allowed minimal time for Heinsman's employee to review the records. He estimated six hours a week but an agent denied that time allowed was that low.

Also, a hard drive containing financial records information copied from al-Amin's computers was given to Heinsman to review. But that was encrypted, which further delayed his review.

Heinsman told Lee that his staff had gotten through two-thirds of the 400 records, which is only the 10 percent of 4,000 records seized.

Heinsman wants to have a medical and statistical expert study the 400-record sample before deciding if he needs to review all of the 4,000 records.

Lee was upset that the records problem hadn't been worked out before the Tuesday hearing. The hearing had been put on the court scheduled on March 21.

Prosecutor John MacCoon said agents had worked with Heinsman's staff on the computer problems but he hadn't heard from Heinsman.

The trial is scheduled for Dec. 2. The plea deal deadline is Oct. 28. Lee ordered both sides to resolve the issue and meet again April 16 to check on the status. Lee warned she might require them to meet weekly until the trial if problems can't be resolved.

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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