DEARBORN, Mich. – A Dearborn doctor and an employee at his clinic were arraigned Friday morning on multiple felony charges for allegedly overprescribing opioids and other controlled substances.
Dr. Mohammad Derani, 67, and 28-year-old Zahra Alwajed were arrested Thursday during a state police raid at the Dearborn Medical Clinic. Michigan State Police said Derani was running a "pill mill" out of the clinic on Warren Avenue. The doctor is accused of overprescribing opioids, such as oxycodone.
Derani, of West Bloomfield, allegedly prescribed more than 500,000 opioid pills since January. Investigators said roughly half of the pills ended up on the street. The pills were prescribed at the clinic and picked up elsewhere. Alwajed worked as an office assistant at the clinic.
Derani is charged with four counts of delivery of a controlled substance. He is being held on a $250,000 bond. If he posts bond, the judge has ordered Derani not to travel outside of the state. The prosecution believes he is a flight risk because he had plans to travel to Saudi Arabia later this month. His passport shows he has traveled to Syria and Turkey in the past few years.
Alwajed, of Detroit, faces four counts of aiding and abetting in the delivery of controlled substances including Adderall and hydrocone. Her bond was set at $25,000. Prosecutors said that during her arrest Thursday $1,000 in cash was found in her purse along with prescription pills. They asked the judge to order a substance abuse program for her. She's also being charged as a habitual offender. She was convicted of a attempting to commit felony in May.
"Any doctor who knowingly prescribes such highly addictive opioids without first conducting evaluations with utmost prudence is directly responsible for the opioid crisis Michigan families face,” Attorney General Bill Schuette said. "In this case, the doctor wasn’t just overprescribing, but prescribing the most deadly trio of drugs out there. If we want a brighter tomorrow, we must do everything in our power to find, stop and prevent bad doctors from handing out drugs that ruin and end lives. We owe that to Michigan’s future, and I am proud of the dedication of my Opioid Trafficking and Interdiction Unit to that mission."
Prosecutors do not believe Alwajed is a flight risk because she does not have a recent history of travel. She told the judge she lost her passport. She is ordered not to apply for a new passport.
Officer gives details of the investigation
An undercover officer described the complaint filed with the court and the details of the investigation.
Officers had observed potential criminal activity at the Dearborn Medical Clinic and were called to the location multiple times for public order crimes. Lines of people were waiting to see the doctor on a daily basis.
An analyst looked at the prescribing habits of the medical facility. The officer said some patients were receiving combinations of drugs that could be lethal.
Undercover officers allegedly scheduled an appointment and met with Derani, who diagnosed the officer with a slipped disc and ADHD.
Authorities found signed prescription pads that weren't filled out and about $50,000 cash during the search warrant executed Thursday.
The officer described Alwajed's role to the judge, saying she accepted bribes to ensure that blood samples would not be drawn, switching x-rays and falsifying patient files. She allegedly would coach patients before seeing the doctor.
Police: Clinic disruptive to neighborhood
Lt. Mike Shaw said the clinic was attracting patients from all over at all hours of the day and night. He said it was becoming disruptive to the neighborhood. The clinic was raided Thursday morning. A large police presence shut down a portion of Warren Avenue just east of Greenfield Road. At least two people, including the doctor and an office manager, were arrested.
"People lined up here at the three in the morning," said Shaw. "And you've got nothing but people lined up around this neighborhood sitting in chairs. They actually ordered food in, to come to this place. When we actually hit the door there were people out here smoking marijuana right in the doorway, right as our officers hit the place."
Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad summed up his view of the problem the clinic presented:
"The doctor certainly was abusive in what he was doing here," said Haddad.
Doctor's license suspended
According to the sign on the building, Dr. Mohammad Derani runs a general practice and family medicine clinic at the location. The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has suspended Derani's license to practice as a medical doctor.
LARA filed an administrative complaint alleging commonly abused and diverted controlled substances, including alprazolam, carisoprodol, hydrocodone combination drugs and codeine/promethazine syrup.
Prescription data revealed Derani ranked among the most prolific prescribers of controlled substances in Michigan in 2015 and 2016, according to LARA. On average, Derani wrote more than 43 controlled substance prescriptions for every workday between January of 2015 and August of 2017.
The clinic is at the corner of Warren and Yinger avenues.