Dr. Emad Bishai, who practices in The Woodlands, has agreed to pay $523,331 to settle allegations that he submitted fake claims for the placement of electro-acupuncture devices as well as making false statements when applying for a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
Dr. Bishai is an anesthesiologist and pain management physician who owns The Woodlands Pain Institute PLLC.
From July 2017 to May 2019, Dr. Bishai billed Medicare and TRICARE (healthcare for military) programs for the surgical implantation of neurostimulator electrodes. This is an invasive procedure for which Medicare pays thousands of dollars. Instead, needles were inserted into the ears of patients and a neurostimulator were taped behind the ears.
In addition to the financial settlement, Dr. Bishai and Woodlands Pain Institute PLLC have agreed to a seven-year-period of exclusion from participation in any federal health care programs.
Indictment re Controlled Substances
When applying for a $213,400 PPP loan in May 2020 on behalf of his clinic, he answered ‘No’ to the question of whether he had been indicted. In fact, Dr. Bishai was indicted in November 2019 for prescribing controlled substances to patients without a valid medical purpose. Prosecutors allege that his prescriptions resulted in four overdose deaths. Three other doctors in Montgomery County were also indicted at the same time. Charges against one of them were later dropped.
The indictments arose out of a horrific car crash in 2015 in Conroe when a family of four, driving home from a Sunday church service, were killed by another driver, who was impaired due to Valium and oxycodone. Dr Rezik Saqer, the doctor who prescribed the drugs in that case, was later sentenced to 7 years in prison on federal fraud charges. Montgomery County Officials then went looking for other pill mill doctors in the area.
The trial by jury for Dr. Bishai on the controlled substances charges was set to begin late last month but it was postponed to a later date.
LaDonna Wiggins, 37, has been charged with bank fraud and money laundering in relation to two Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. She received $3.6 million and allegedly used these funds to buy two houses, multiple vehicles and luxury goods.
She made two loan applications for her businesses Wiggins & Graham Enterprise, dba ‘The Concession Stand and Pink Lady Line. In May 2020, she submitted an application for the first business stating she had 108 employees. The application for the second business was made the following month. She stated that she had 107 employees for that business.
Both loans were funded by Kabbage, Inc, an online funding company for small business owners.
Some of the funds were allegedly spent as follows;
- $688k for a house in Cypress, Texas
- $248k for a house in Katy, Texas
- $79k for a 2020 Range Rover
- $52k for a 2020 Nissan Murano
- $63k at Chanel
- $188k on a new swimming pool
- $180k on construction work
- $6k on an aquarium and tropical fish
- $200k to buy an unnamed business
If convicted, Wiggins faces up to 30 years in federal prison and a possible $1 million maximum fine. The government also intends to seize the remaining cash in her bank accounts (approx. $0.5 million), the two houses and the Range Rover.
Wiggins indictment – pdf
You can read about the other Houston-area residents charged with PPP fraud;
[UPDATE 12-08-21 – Ms. Kasali was found guilty by a jury on two counts. She is scheduled to be sentenced in February 2022. She faces up to 30 years in prison.]
Lola Shalewa Barbara Kasali, 22, of Houston, has been charged with fraudulently obtaining more than $1.9 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.
The complaint alleges that Kasali submitted at least two fraudulent PPP loan applications. One for an entity called Lola’s Level and the other in the name of Charm Hair Extensions. Kasali allegedly received more than $1.9 million in PPP loan funds following the approval of the Lola’s Level application.
The charges allege that after receiving the funds, Kasali transferred the money into four additional bank accounts. Authorities were later able to seize the funds, according to the charges.
The loan applications allegedly asserted both Charm Hair Extensions and Lola’s Level had numerous employees and significant payroll expenses. According to the charges, however, neither entity has employees nor pays wages consistent with the amounts claimed in the loan applications.
According to the PPP loan database of loans over $150,000 that is published by the Small Business Administration, there is one loan approved for Lola’s Level but none for Charm Hair Extensions.
The bank that approved the Lola’s Level loan was Radius Bank of Boston. That bank was also involved in partially funding the PPP loans of a Houston man now charged with buying a Lamborghini with his funds.
Joshua Argires, 29, of Houston, has been charged with COVID relief fraud. He allegedly made two fraudulent applications for more than $1.1 million in forgivable loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
The complaint alleges that Mr Argires made applications on behalf of two businesses, Texas Barbecue and Houston Landscaping. He allegedly claimed that the two companies had numerous employees and hundreds of thousands of dollars in payroll expenses.
The $956,000 Texas Barbecue loan was funded through PrimeWay Federal Credit Union, while the Houston Landscaping loan was funded by Bank of America.
The funds received on behalf of Texas Barbecue were allegedly invested in a cryptocurrency account. The funds obtained for Houston Landscaping were held in a bank account and slowly depleted via ATM withdrawals.
Mr Argires is charged with making false statements to a financial institution, wire fraud, bank fraud and engaging in unlawful monetary transactions.
Last month, another Houston man, Jase Gautreaux, was charged with fraudulently seeking over $13 million through PPP loans.
A Houston Funeral Director, Jase Gautreaux, has been charged with fraudulently seeking over $13 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.
Mr Gautreaux allegedly submitted several fraudulent loan applications to multiple banks. He applied on behalf of a business that did not exist and sought loans for a business with which he had no affiliation. He allegedly falsified the number of employees, payroll expenses, tax documents and bank account information. Mr Gautreaux ultimately received over $1.6 million in PPP funds.
Mr Gautreaux, 38, is currently a Funeral Director at Wingate Funeral Home. According to LinkedIn, until January 2020, he spent 11 years in Procurement at Tema Oil and Gas (which became part of Rosehill Resources in 2017). During that time, he also appeared to operate his own funeral home business.
Bank fraud is a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Making a false statement within the jurisdiction of a federal agency carries a potential maximum sentence of five years in prison.
In the past day, there were a number of other people around the country who were charged with PPP fraud. These included;
- Virginia couple ($1.4 million paid out), arrested as they attempted to flee to Poland.
- Dayton, Ohio businesswoman ($1 million paid out but flagged and recalled by the bank).
- New York opthalmologist ($630,000 paid out) already under indictment for healthcare fraud.
- ‘Arkansas Mo’, who appeared in Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta ($3.7 million). He used some of the money to lease a Rolls-Royce
- Fahad Shah, a Dallas-area man, was charged with a fraudulently seeking $3 million in PPP loans. He allegedly used part of the money to buy a Tesla.