Health Fraudster Wants Out Of Prison Over COVID-19 Fears

By Bill Wichert
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Law360 (October 16, 2020, 4:57 PM EDT) -- A man convicted of bilking federal health care programs out of more than $9 million said Friday that the threat of COVID-19 means his "life and health are at stake" as he implored a New Jersey federal court to release him to home confinement.

Imadeldin Awad Khair, who operated an ambulance company despite being banned from taking part in the health care programs, urged the court to approve his bid for compassionate release under the First Step Act, citing his age, health conditions and coronavirus infections at the Fort Dix federal correctional institution in New Jersey where he is serving an 18-year prison sentence.

Khair, who is nearly 61 years old and slated to remain behind bars for more than a decade, said in a brief that he is "at risk of even more severe illness or death if he contracts COVID-19." The situation that Khair and his family are in is "cruel," the brief states.

"No reasonable person — let alone someone of Mr. Khair's age and with his medical conditions — would feel safe spending even one night in a closed facility with hundreds of others, especially knowing that staff members coming into the facility were not tested for COVID-19," according to the brief.

If released to home confinement, Khair also would not pose "a danger to the community," the brief states. He has "absolutely no history of violence," and "it would be incredibly difficult for Mr. Khair to engage in fraud — the only crime he's ever committed — while under home incarceration," the brief states.

Khair is scheduled to be released in February 2032, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons website.

Due to his prior conviction on a New Jersey health care fraud charge, Khair was barred in 2004 from participating in Medicare, Medicaid or other federal health care programs for at least 11 years, prosecutors said. Despite that exclusion, Khair operated a company called K&S Invalid Coach in his brother's name, prosecutors said.

Medicare and Medicaid ultimately paid more than $9 million in claims submitted by the business, prosecutors said. As part of the scheme, Khair used bogus pay stubs to convince authorities that he wasn't violating the ban, prosecutors said.

Khair was convicted at a 2016 bench trial of health care fraud, obstructing a federal audit, tax evasion and money laundering charges. He was sentenced in January 2017 to 216 months behind bars and ordered to pay $8.8 million in restitution.

In May of this year, Khair filed a pro se motion seeking compassionate release. Assistant federal public defender Rahul Sharma supplemented that motion with Friday's brief.

During his time in prison, Khair has become more obese and developed chronic kidney disease and renal cell carcinoma, which led doctors to remove his right kidney, the brief states. Renal carcinoma is suspected in Khair's left kidney, but he has been unable to receive an ultrasound or MRI due to coronavirus-related restrictions, the brief states.

"That means Mr. Khair may very well have cancer in his remaining kidney, and it may be metastasizing, but he simply cannot know it yet," according to the brief. His medical problems also include type 2 diabetes mellitus and severe hypertension, the brief states.

Khair further took aim at the conditions at Fort Dix. Of the 2,465 inmates there, only about a quarter have been tested for COVID-19 and, of that number, 106 inmates have tested positive, the brief states.

On Sept. 14, there were no reported COVID-19 infections among the Fort Dix inmates and no infections among the staff, the brief states. As of Thursday, however, "there are 9 positive inmates, 1 positive staff member, and there are 2 tests pending," according to the brief.

"It is difficult to think of a less safe environment that Mr. Khair could be in with his health conditions," the brief states.

The brief added, "Once again, no reasonable person his age and with his health conditions would choose to sleep with five other people in a room ... and to share hallways, cafeterias, and bathrooms with almost 2,500 others, in a facility that has already had over 100 coronavirus infections, in which outside staff may enter without being tested, and in which there are currently 10 infections."

Matthew Reilly, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey, said Friday the office declined to comment.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew F. Nikic.

Khair is represented by assistant federal public defender Rahul Sharma.

The case is USA v. Khair, case number 2:15-cr-00404, in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

--Editing by Kelly Duncan.

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New Jersey

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August 17, 2015

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