Source: OC Register
Charges dropped against Irvine bioscience company founder in alleged $3.5 million kickback scheme Scott Schwebke %%item_date%% %%item_source%%
Federal prosecutors have abruptly dropped criminal charges against a former executive with a defunct Irvine-based health sciences lab business who was accused of paying physicians at least $3.5 million in kickbacks to induce them to order unnecessary genetic tests for Medicare and Medicaid recipients.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a court motion last week that it dismissed the case against Brian Javaade Meshkin, 46, “in the interests of justice.” The Ladera Ranch man, founder of Proove Biosciences Inc., was indicted in 2001 on charges of conspiracy and receiving and making illegal payments.
Charges also were dropped against Ossama Antoine Jawar, a former sales representative for Proove, and four physicians with the National Spine & Pain Center in Virginia. Three other defendants were granted immunity from prosecution and had their cases dismissed.
Kelly Thornton, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego, which handled the case, declined to comment on the dismissals.
Proove offered several pharmacogenetic tests that purportedly determined a patient’s risk of abusing certain prescription opioids and how patients metabolized certain drugs. The tests were marketed primarily to physicians who specialized in pain management.
Federal agents executed a search warrant in June 2017 at Proove’s headquarters and seized records.
The indictment alleged Meshkin carried out a scheme from early 2013 until June 2017 to pay physicians kickbacks ranging from $100 to $150 for each Proove test ordered for Medicare and Medicaid recipients. Additionally, the indictment claimed some of the Proove defendants leveraged outstanding kickback payments owed to physicians to demand that they order more tests.
The dismissal follows a Dec. 11 motion seeking an evidentiary hearing filed by Meshkin’s attorney, Jason de Bretteville.
The motion alleges a government “taint team” provided at least 85 potentially privileged documents belonging to Proove to prosecutors on the trial team.
A taint team typically is made up of Department of Justice attorneys and FBI agents who are independent of the trial team and screen evidence collected through search warrants, such as emails and other electronic documents, to determine if they are exempt from disclosure.
The purpose of the taint team is to insulate the prosecution from exposure to privileged attorney-client information.
Prosecutors said during a hearing that the allegations about the taint team are “wildly inaccurate,” but did not elaborate on their decision to drop the charges, said de Bretteville, who believes his motion prompted them to quickly back away from the case.
“The court was made aware of what happened and they dismissed the case,” he said in a phone interview. “The prosecution’s investigation started in 2013 and, as a result, nine people were indicted. Then the prosecution walked quietly into the night 30 days before trial.”
Meshkin said he feels vindicated by the government’s dismissal.
“Those words used by the government to dismiss this case — ‘in the interests of justice’ — ring especially true today for the millions affected by this misguided effort to destroy Proove,” he said in a statement. “There has been so much injustice over the past six years that it is wonderful to see truth prevail.
“I am excited to have the opportunity to set the record straight and to move forward from here with my head held high.”