published Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Chattanooga doctor faces health care fraud, tax evasion, money laundering and weapon charges

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, Tenn. 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, Tenn. 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.
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    O'Neil Medical Clinic, located on Brainerd Rd. in Chattanooga, Tenn. on Tuesday. Ihsaan al-Amin, also known as Robert O'Neil Robinson Jr., runs the clinic and was arrested on federal charges of running a pill mill operation out of his office.
    Photo by Doug Strickland /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

A Chattanooga doctor accused of running a "pill mill" faces a 105-count federal indictment that includes charges of health care fraud, income tax evasion, money laundering and using a firearm in the operation of a criminal enterprise.

Arrested Tuesday morning in O'Neil Medical Clinic at 4719 Brainerd Road, Ihsaan al-Amin was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Susan Lee late the same day. The 61-year-old man faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and an additional five years for the weapons charge if convicted.

The doctor and his retained attorney, Rich Heinsman, declined to comment after the hearing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John MacCoon and agents with the FBI, Internal Revenue Service and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, who conducted the operation, also declined to comment on the pending case.

Officials claim that al-Amin was running a cash-only "pill mill" in which he prescribed or sold large quantities of painkillers and other drugs for other than medical purposes to local residents and out-of-state buyers.

The indictment against al-Amin alleges that, on 99 separate occasions from at least 2009 to 2010, he prescribed or dispensed pain medications such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone to patients "not for a legitimate medical purpose."

Court documents state that al-Amin, also known as Robert O'Neil Robinson Jr., was released on a $100,000 unsecured bond for which his wife, Jessie Muse al-Amin, promised to be responsible.

Part of al-Amin's bond conditions prevents him from practicing medicine. His wife began working in the clinic in February and MacCoon said she could continue to work to assure his ability to pay for an attorney.

Lee set al-Amin's trial date for Aug. 6.

Tennessee is one of the top three states in the United States for the number of prescriptions written per population, according to a report from the Kaiser Foundation. An estimated 18 prescriptions are written each year for every person in the state, according to Times Free Press archives.

Two bills passed this year in the Legislature aim to curb the "pill mill" problem, as lawmakers have dubbed it.

One bill now requires pain management clinics to be certified with the state and have a doctor present at least one-third of its operating hours. Another requires doctors to update patient prescription databases every seven days, as compared to the previous requirement of every 40 days, according to archives.

In previous Chattanooga Times Free Press interviews, state representatives and narcotics agents have called pill mills an "epidemic" in both Tennessee and Georgia.

An Associated Press analysis shows that oxycodone and hydrocodone sales, two popular painkillers available only through prescription, have increased dramatically in the past decade, according to archives. Between 2000 and 2010, oxycodone sales in Tennessee increased more than 500 percent, while hydrocodone sales rose by nearly 300 percent in the same period.

The weapons charge against al-Amin stems from his habit of carrying a 9 mm pistol while he worked and storing a .380-caliber handgun in the reception area of his clinic, according to the indictment.

Money transactions related to illegal activity are shown in the documents through two 2007 transactions in which al-Amin transferred first $12,000 then $15,163 to Diversified Healthcare Services.

Two counts of income tax evasion detail amounts totaling $113,204 owed to the IRS in 2006 and $93,092 owed to the agency in 2009.

Lee found al-Amin's declaration of no owned property puzzling when reviewing whether the man qualified for an appointed attorney. Agents listed nearly $23,000 in cash seized from his clinic in searches conducted on April 15, 2010, in forfeiture requests.

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6347.

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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