Dr. Leyla Nourian never belonged on a list of defendants in a $158 million healthcare fraud scheme. She knew it from the start, her lawyer Tom Melsheimer agreed, and now the judge has agreed, as she was dismissed from the case right before the trial began last week.
Nourian is a dentist in Frisco whose brothers Dehshid Nourian and Jamshid Noryian, are two of the primary defendants in the healthcare kickback scheme. The defendants allegedly controlled several pharmacies that charged the Department of Labor-Office of Workers’ Compensation for compounded creams used to treat scars, wounds, and pain with rates of up to $28,000 per container.
Leyla was initially named as one of the pharmacy operators paying physicians kickbacks to obtain prescriptions at one of their pharmacies. The payments were allegedly concealed as loans to the physicians. Jamshid would market the pharmacies’ compounded creams to physicians, who would unnecessarily prescribe them in return for monetary gifts and rent relief.
Around $158 million in false claims were submitted through the OWCP, and the pharmacies received around $82 million as payment for those claims. Since the indictment, the government seized over $50 million in assets related to the criminal conduct.
Many healthcare fraud cases involve compounded medications, which are rife with fraud because the process and costs are opaque to payers, and pharmacies can get massive reimbursements for compounded medicines even when they may not be applicable or necessary.
Leyla, Melsheimer says, was never involved in any of the pharmacies her brothers ran; she relied on them for business and real estate advice, so she was not involved in the scheme. The defendants, including Leyla, were first indicted in 2017 and then reindicted in 2019; COVID put the case on ice for a couple of years.
The argument was relatively straightforward: Leyla was never involved in the case. Some of the implicating evidence presented by prosecutors, Melsheimer says, were eventually shown to be forged documents that didn’t contain her signature. Part of the defense was to bring a handwriting expert who would testify that Leyla’s writing wasn’t on the alleged documents.
Melsheimer said that negotiations with the government involved a plea offer from the federal prosecutors, but they refused and were all set to go to trial.
“The government most times would rather lose a case than dismiss a case,” Melsheimer says. “It’s a crazy attitude that the Justice Department sometimes has that they don’t like to admit that they shouldn’t have indicted someone. But the truth is, they’re human like anyone else, and they make mistakes.”
Melsheimer was set for a five-week trial when the government dismissed his client on Oct. 12. Melsheimer says he was a bit apprehensive about the trial because in a case with other defendants, there is always a risk of guilt by association. The trial began for the other defendants last week.
Since the original indictment, Leyla has been able to continue her dental practice and keep the trial out of mind, for the most part, Melsheimer says. It is rare for a federal case, especially one of this size, to be delayed for five years. But COVID and the complexity of the case gave her more time to build a defense and get dismissed from the trial.
“I’m gratified that the government, after five years of the case pending and a lot of legal expenses and a lot of stress and a lot of anxiety, eventually came to the right result,” Melsheimer says.