Eighteen months after federal agents raided two pain management clinics run by local Dr. Ihassan al-Amin and charged him in 105 counts involving drugs, money laundering, tax evasion and weapons, the doctor pleaded guilty Thursday.
Al-Amin, 63, entered guilty pleas to two counts of tax evasion and one count of prescribing hydrocodone "not for legitimate medical purposes."
A motion filed by his attorney, Rich Heinsman, notes that prosecutors charged that al-Amin had illegally dispensed pain pills to 15 patients.
But two licensed Tennessee pain management specialists swore in affidavits that 14 of the 15 patients cited were prescribed painkillers appropriately.
Medical records for the 15th patient were withheld, so the specialists declined to offer an opinion, according to court documents.
The same documents show that for his 2005 tax return, al-Amin reported a taxable income of $6,286 when in fact he made $321,807 that year. He filed a late return in 2009 for his 2006 taxable income. On that form he wrote that he'd earned $53,766 when he actually made $262,871.
One charge involved al-Amin prescribing pain pills to an undercover federal agent who posed as a long-haul truck driver with back pain. The agent did not provide documents showing a medical need, but al-Amin prescribed 21 hydrocodone pills at the 10 mg dose in 2009, records show.
Al-Amin, also known as Robert O'Neil Robertson, opened a pain management clinic in Chattanooga in 1996. The business that was raided in May 2012 was O'Neil Medical Clinic at 4719 Brainerd Road.
But back in 2010, IRS agents already had seized about $23,000 from that location, another clinic al-Amin operated at the same address and another address.
That money likely will be forfeited as part of al-Amin's sentencing.
Tonja Pollino, a former employee of al-Amin's, said the doctor took cash and check payments but not insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. She told agents in court documents that al-Amin charged $110 for the initial visit and $75 for subsequent patient visits. He later raised the price to $215 and $180, respectively.
Pollino said al-Amin saw 25 to 60 patients daily and never referred patients to any nondrug pain reduction therapies.
Heinsman, prosecutors and al-Amin all declined to comment on the plea.
Al-Amin is scheduled for sentencing March 20, 2014, and is free as he awaits the hearing. He faces up to 10 years on the drug charge and five years on the tax evasion charges. But in Heinsman's court filing, the attorney estimates al-Amin will face no more than two years and possibly less than one year of prison time.
Contact staff writer Todd South at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.
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 ...