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US pain clinic CEO pleads guilty to distributing 4 million opioids

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A businessman who operated pain clinics in the US states of Ohio and Michigan pleaded guilty Monday to a $150 million scheme to fraudulently distribute millions of doses of highly-addictive opioid medications.

Mashiyat Rashid, CEO of Tri-County Wellness Group, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, and one count of money laundering, the US Justice Department said.

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The 38-year-old allegedly fueled a lavish lifestyle of luxury clothes and exotic automobiles by creating a massive fraud scheme to illegally prescribe 4.2 million doses of opioid medications such as oxycodone to patients, including addicts.

The investigation was part of an initiative by President Donald Trump’s administration to crack down on medical professionals who unscrupulously distribute the dangerous drugs to addicted patients for profit.

Such proliferation of prescription drugs helps fuel a massive opioid painkiller and heroin epidemic that has killed tens of thousands of Americans.

Last week, prosecutors unveiled charges against five New York doctors, a pharmacist and their associates.

“The Department of Justice has made ending the opioid crisis a top priority and taken historic new steps to stop the spread of addiction,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

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“Today’s guilty plea helps us bring the defendant to justice and reduce the supply of illegal drugs flowing into our communities.”

Rashid agreed to forfeit more than $51 million, as well as properties prosecutors considered ill-gotten gains, such as various real estate holdings. He is scheduled to be sentenced in April.

The CEO owned and operated numerous pain clinics, laboratories and other health care facilities.

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Twelve others, including seven doctors, have also pleaded guilty in the case.

The US opioid epidemic has led to the first drop in life expectancy over two consecutive years since the early 1960s, American statisticians say.

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In 2017, a record 71,568 people died from overdose deaths, far more than traffic accidents and gun-related deaths, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The crisis is rooted in decades of overprescription of OxyContin and other addictive painkillers, leading to more than two million people becoming addicted.

In recent years, addicts have been forced to turn to heroin and the cheaper, far more potent fentanyl as authorities have cracked down on prescription painkiller sales.

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Mnuchin threatens to make taxpayers pay back COVID money unless Trump is reelected

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Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin suggested on Sunday that Americans will have to pay the government back for any payroll tax reduction unless President Donald Trump is reelected.

In an interview on FOX, host Chris Wallace noted that the president's latest executive action on COVID-19 financial relief is "not a tax cut."

"It's a payroll tax suspension," Wallace explained. "Isn't there a danger that a lot of businesses won't pass these saving through to workers because they're going to hold on to the money because at some point, according to this executive action by the end of the year, those payroll taxes are going to be have to be paid anyway?"

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2020 Election

‘We need a reality check here’: CNN’s Bash cuts off Kudlow’s rambling spin on Trump’s unemployment plans

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An alternately amused and baffled Dana Bash was forced to cut off Donald Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow on CNN Sunday morning as he attempted to spin the president's plans to help out the unemployed with income supplements, changing his numbers from $400 to $800 to $1,200 all within three to four sentences.

Pressed about the president's executive order calling for a $400 supplement -- with $100 coming from the states at Trump's demand -- the State of the Union fill-in host tried to cut through Kudlow's veering from dollar amount to dollar amount to get a clearer understanding of what the president is proposing.

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Nancy Pelosi owns Chris Wallace: ‘Clearly you don’t have an understanding of what is happening here’

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) faced off against Fox News host Chris Wallace on Sunday over the failure to negotiate a COVID-19 financial relief bill.

In an interview on Fox News Sunday, Wallace suggested that there is an upside to executive actions taken by President Donald Trump in lieu of a financial relief bill because some people will get protections from evictions "rather than getting nothing at all."

For her part, Pelosi quoted a Republican senator who said that the president's executive action is "constitutional slop."

"While he says he's going to have a moratorium on evictions, he's going to ask the folks in charge to study if that's feasible," Pelosi explained before noting that the president's payroll tax holiday serves to "undermine Social Security and Medicare."

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