State drops charges before doctor's trial

Cleared physician says
police are biased




February 18, 2006 - A prominent Melbourne physician no longer faces criminal charges of illegally prescribing drugs.

Prosecutors dropped charges against Dr. Nima Heshmati, 31, after his August arrest on charges of prescribing painkillers to undercover police officers.

"Even the expert (witnesses) were not satisfied that it fell below the level where you could say it was crime," said attorney Wayne Holmes, chief of operations for the state attorney's office.

Heshmati's trial was scheduled to begin Monday, before the charges were dismissed.

Prosecutors are reviewing charges and might proceed against co-defendant Dr. David Wang, 51, of Orlando, whose trial date will be set at an April hearing.

"Dr. Wang dealt with different (undercover) patients under different circumstances," Holmes said.

Heshmati is the son of Dr. Heidar Heshmati, director of the Brevard County Health Department.

Berry said Heshmati will apply immediately to have his medical license reinstated.

"He didn't do anything wrong," Berry said.





State drops charges before doctor's trial




February 14, 2006 - A prominent Melbourne physician no longer faces criminal charges of illegally prescribing drugs.

Prosecutors dropped charges against Dr. Nima Heshmati, 31, after his August arrest on charges of prescribing painkillers to undercover police officers.

"Even the expert (witnesses) were not satisfied that it fell below the level where you could say it was crime," said attorney Wayne Holmes, chief of operations for the state attorney's office.

Heshmati's trial was scheduled to begin Monday, before the charges were dismissed.

Prosecutors are reviewing charges and might proceed against co-defendant Dr. David Wang, 51, of Orlando, whose trial date will be set at an April hearing.

"Dr. Wang dealt with different (undercover) patients under different circumstances," Holmes said.

Heshmati is the son of Dr. Heidar Heshmati, director of the Brevard County Health Department.

Wang and Heshmati worked in walk-in clinics in Palm Bay, Cocoa and Melbourne. Police said the investigation began because police found pill bottles prescribed by Wang at more than 10 death scenes since 2000.

During a yearlong investigation, officers posed as patients with general pain symptoms. Both doctors gave the agents prescriptions for hydrocodone, Xanax and Soma after brief examinations, said Melbourne Police officer John Pasko, then a detective.

"These physicians were prescribing drugs for monetary gain," Pasko said in August. Melbourne police did not return calls in time to comment for this report.

Defense attorney Robert Berry said the case against Heshmati was flawed by the behavior of undercover officers.

"They were sent in to lie, and they were prescribed very low-grade painkillers"" Berry said. "It was the viewpoint of some overzealous law enforcement officers that something untoward was happening, when it was an overblown interpretation of events."

Prosecutor Holmes said that about 20 percent of criminal cases are dropped by prosecutors because the police's definition of "probable cause" for an arrest does not provide enough evidence to meet the court-required standard of guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt."

"I'm confident they believed they had probable cause to make the arrest," Holmes said.

Berry said Heshmati will apply immediately to have his medical license reinstated.

"He didn't do anything wrong," Berry said.

Dr. Heshmati's sister, Nadia, still faces charges of resisting arrest without violence. When her brother was arrested, she said she asked to see a warrant and was handcuffed while trying to call an attorney.





Doctor Says Police Set Him Up
Police Say Prescriptions Illegal
Doctor Says They're Legitimate




August 18, 2005 - One of two Brevard County doctors arrested on drug charges said he was set up by police.

The two were charged with trafficking and with unlawful distribution of controlled substances after local, state and federal agents raided three local medical clinics Wednesday, WESH 2 News reported.

Dr. Nima Heshmati does not deny prescribing painkillers and muscle relaxers to four undercover officers. Police say the prescriptions were illegal, but the doctor said they were legitimate.

Heshmati is preparing a vigorous defense against the charges that resulted in his being led away in handcuffs Wednesday in front of some of his patients. He and Dr. David Wang, who operate three walk-in clinics, are accused of trafficking in hydrocodone and unlawful distribution of controlled substances.

"It's completely false and absolutely ridiculous," Heshmati said.

Police said they wrote prescriptions without properly checking their patients to see if they really needed the painkillers. "It was quite easy. They supplied no medical documentation whatsoever," said Detective John Pasko, of the Melbourne Police Department.

"If the DA is now going after physicians for writing a small amount of (mild painkillers), then every physician should be concerned. This is a big blow to pain management," Heshmati said.

Heshmati said he does not ask all his patients for full medical histories nor does he order tests for things such as muscle sprains, which don't show up on X-rays or MRIs.

He accused police of setting him up and going on a rampage against doctors who prescribe painkillers. Heshmati said he does not prescribe the strongest, most addictive painkillers, such as Oxycontin, and that he prescribed only a few pills -- 15 or 20 -- for the undercover officers who came into his office with fake injuries.

He said doctors should be insulated from responsibility for patients who lie to get drugs and then abuse them.

"If a patient wants to abuse the medication and do that, then a physician should not be held liable," he said.

Both doctors are temporarily suspended from practicing medicine in Florida.

Heshmati said when he gets his license back, he'll stop prescribing painkillers out of fear of being arrested again, even though his patients need them.





Doctors face drug charges




August 18, 2005 - Two Brevard doctors, including the son of the Brevard County Health Department director, were arrested Wednesday and charged with trafficking illegal prescription drugs.

Police arrested Dr. Nima Heshmati and Dr. David Wang during simultaneous morning raids at walk-in medical clinics in Palm Bay, Cocoa and Melbourne, then closed all three facilities. Both men were charged with trafficking in hydrocodone and unlawful distribution of controlled substances.

The investigation was sparked by citizens' complaints and the Brevard County Medical Examiner's Office, which told investigators that pill bottles prescribed by Wang were discovered at more death scenes since 2000 than those issued by any other local doctor, Melbourne police Detective John Pasko said. How many? More than 10, Pasko said.

During a year-long-plus investigation, undercover agents posing as patients paid $60 per clinical visit, claiming they suffered from general pain symptoms, Pasko said. Both doctors gave the agents prescriptions for hydrocodone, Xanax and Soma after brief examinations -- though the agents provided no medical documentation, Pasko said.

"It was quite easy. They supplied no medical documentation whatsoever, and the medical examinations took a matter of minutes," Pasko said. "These physicians were prescribing drugs for monetary gain."

State health officials issued emergency suspensions on Heshmati and Wang's medical licenses, preventing both from practicing medicine. Neither man had previous health board disciplinary actions or liability claims exceeding $100,000 during the past 10 years, according to state records.

During an afternoon news conference, law enforcement officials revealed few additional details, saying the investigation remains ongoing.

Heshmati is the son of Dr. Heidar Heshmati, director of the county health department.

Neither Pasko nor Florida Department of Health spokeswoman Thometta Cozart said there are apparent connections between the actions of Nima Heshmati and his father.

Heidar Heshmati said he was stunned by his son's arrest. As of late afternoon Wednesday, he had not yet spoken to Nima.

"I don't know what's going on. I'm shocked. I know Nima is not that type of person," he said. "I know that."

Heidar Heshmati said he is not involved in private medical practice.

Wednesday's medical clinic raids happened about 11:15 a.m. At the Melbourne Walk-In Clinic on Strawbridge Avenue, police vehicles converged on the single-story building.

About 12:15 p.m., another family member, Nadia Heshmati, was arrested on charges of obstruction. Melbourne police Sgt. Sean Riordan said she became disruptive while investigators were at the scene. Wearing green nurse's scrubs, she was led into the back of a police cruiser and handcuffed.

Melbourne police spokeswoman Angela Bozorth said she did not know whether Nadia Heshmati worked at the clinic, nor what her relationship was to other family members.

The front door was unlocked about 1 p.m. at the Palm Bay Walk-In Clinic on Palm Bay Road, but no clients were being seen. Instead, at least eight non- uniformed police officers were inside. Three officers opened drawers in a back office and examined items on a desk as they executed a search warrant.

In Cocoa, Andrew Chadbourne of Cape Canaveral stopped for medical treatment after the clinic was raided and closed.

"Yes, that surprises me. It seemed legit to me," Chadbourne said. "I only have good things to say about this guy (Heshmati). I did tile work here."

Richard Wolsifer, who worked with Chadbourne, said Wang has treated him before. "I don't see him giving drugs for no apparent reason."

Bail was set for both doctors at $50,000. Nadia Heshmati's bail was set at $500.

Riordan said Wang saw patients at all three clinics, while Heshmati worked in Palm Bay and Melbourne. Wang, 51, lives in Orlando. Nima Heshmati, 31, and Nadia, 37, live in Indian Harbour Beach.

Both doctors are certified for family practice, their licenses indicate. Wang has been licensed since June 1985 and Heshmati has been licensed since February 2002.

The Brevard County Sheriff's Office, Palm Bay and Cocoa police, Florida Department of Health, Department of Law Enforcement and Drug Enforcement Administration also participated in the investigation.

Melbourne police Cmdr. Ron Bell said the city's most recent similar case revolved around the We Really Care Clinic on Sarno Road.

In July 2003, Dr. Sarfraz Mirza was arrested amid allegations he was running a $1 million-plus scam by issuing illegal OxyContin prescriptions. More than 40 arrest warrants were issued. Mirza's medical license remains suspended.







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