Convicted Baldwin doctor faces new federal charges
MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - A Baldwin County doctor convicted of health care fraud faces new charges alleging that he committed fraud, hid assets and falsely claimed he could not pay restitution ordered in his previous case.
Dr. Rassan Tarabein pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to bank fraud, making false statements and aggravated identity theft. FBI agents arrested him a few weeks ago at Pensacola International Airport, where he was waiting to board a plane to Syria.
“One, he’s not guilty,” defense attorney Dennis Knizley said. “But two, they’ve already been litigated.”
Knizley said the allegations contained in the indictment are identical to accusations prosecutors made when they asked a judge to re-sentence Tarabein in the health care fraud case. U.S. District Judge Kristi DuBose found then that Tarabein had intentionally failed to make restitution payments. But she denied the request to re-sentence the defendant and said she would consider his request to travel to Syria if he prepaid one year of restitution installments, $6,000, and paid $97,000.
One day later, Tarabein paid $103,000 to the clerk of court. Federal law enforcement authorities allege that demonstrates that the defendant has substantial assets and was lying when he claimed he could no make restitution payments.
Tarabein, who had operated the Eastern Shore Neurology and Pain Center, pleaded guilty in 2017 to health care fraud. He admitted that from about 2004 until May 2017, he induced patients to visit his clinic so that he could bill health care benefit programs for medically unnecessary tests and procedures.
The judge, as part of the defendant’s sentence in 2018, ordered him to pay more than $15 million restitution to the government.
In January, the indictment alleges, Tarabein emailed to his probation officer that the $500 a month restitution ordered by DuBose was “based on my glorious past, which is not of no existence and is permanently gone, for no return. The reality now is that I am broke and $500/month is unrealistic.”
Tarabein also wrote that he and his wife were surviving on his $2,000 Social Security Administration check, which was not enough to meet basic living expenses.
Prosecutors maintain that the statement is false because Tarabein did, in fact, have the ability to make the monthly payments.
The indictment cites another statement that prosecutors contend was false – a February email to his probation officer in which the defendant claimed he had no assets, directly or indirectly.
The indictment also alleges that Tarabein attempted to defraud Wells Fargo Bank and Bank of America. Prosecutors contend he attempted in December to transfer $4,000 into a Wells Fargo account from a Bank of America account that law enforcement agents had seized as part of the health care fraud case.
The identity theft charge stems from allegations that from March to April 11, Tarabein used the signature of another person, identified as “D.S.”
In addition to the indictment, prosecutors are seeking to have Tarabein’s supervised release term on the health care fraud case revoke. Knizley said that, as well as the new indictment, all repeat the allegations that DuBose considered earlier this year.
“It appears to be something more than a simple pursuit of justice,” he said.
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