Federal suit of doctor settled

31 Dec 2004

By Kevin Eigelbach

A local doctor investigated for his prescription-writing practices has settled a forfeiture case brought against him by the federal government. Dr. Ghassan Haj-Hamed's attorney, Bob Carran, said he hopes the settlement will end any questions about the doctor's practice.

The government sued the doctor in September 2002, saying his Riverside Medical Clinics and Urgent Care Centers were connected with illegal drug transactions.

The settlement agreed on earlier this month calls for the doctor to surrender the properties at 200 Fairfield Ave. and 318 Fairfield Ave. in Bellevue, plus $17,325 and two Mercedes Benz automobiles.

But the government agreed to give up claims to three properties:

  • . 3617 Alexandria Pike, the Cold Spring Urgent Care Center.
  • . 4056 Clifton Ridge, Cincinnati, the doctor's residence.
  • . 822 Monmouth St., Newport.

The government also relinquished its claim to $133,000 in bank accounts in the doctor's name or the names of family members.

The doctor settled the case because he felt compelled to, Carran said. When the government can take away or seize everything someone has even before bringing a criminal charge against him, and then follow up by sending him tax bills he can't pay because the government has his property, it "inevitably puts the person in a position where they have to settle," Carran said.

"Dr. Haj-Hamed settled. He's giving up some of the property, but he's getting back enough to pay his tax bills and the debts he incurred while his property was seized."

Asked if the government was pursuing a criminal case against Haj-Hamed, Carran said he couldn't answer for the United States. David Olinger Jr., the assistant U.S. attorney in charge of the case, couldn't be reached for comment on Thursday afternoon.

According to federal court documents, drug enforcement agencies started receiving complaints about Haj-Hamed's clinics late in 2000. A Drug Enforcement Agency agent said in an affidavit that the doctor illegally prescribed controlled substances that were resold on the illegal drug market.

A DEA agent told the court he believed the doctor had concealed some profits from his alleged illegal activities by putting money in his daughter's and wife's bank accounts. "Dr. Haj-Hamed has amassed great wealth through his practice of illegally prescribing prescription medication," the agent wrote in an affidavit.

The Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure suspended Haj-Hamed's license to practice medicine in February 2003, but reinstated it in August with restrictions. Ohio suspended his license in April.

He cannot practice at his Bellevue and Falmouth clinics or at those in West Chester Township in Butler County, Ohio, and the Cincinnati neighborhood of Oakley. The Syrian national can practice only at Tri-State Urgent Care in Cold Spring.

Saturday, November 29, 2003
Drug dispenser under federal probe

Ky. has own investigation of doctor
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Federal authorities have acknowledged for the first time that a doctor who co-owned and operated several medical clinics across the Tristate has been the focus of a three-year federal investigation into an illegal prescription-drug scheme.

On Wednesday, a federal magistrate judge in Kentucky agreed to a four-month delay in civil forfeiture proceedings. A prosecutor asked for the delay so as not to compromise the related federal criminal investigation of Ghassan Haj-Hamed and unnamed associates.

Court documents allege Haj-Hamed operated offices in Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana that illegally dispensed controlled substances. Court documents do not detail what charges could result from the investigation. Kentucky charges of prescribing painkillers without a lawful purpose were dropped last year so they wouldn't interfere with the federal investigation. Haj-Hamed's license has been suspended in Kentucky, and the Ohio Medical Board is investigating.

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