Richland man who faked human research trials dealt 28-year sentence

Sami Anwar

RICHLAND, Wash. — A Richland man convicted on 47 counts of fraud and drug-related charges was sentenced Thursday to more than 28 years in federal prison, according to the U.S. Justice Department’s Eastern District of Washington.

Sami Anwar, 41, was found guilty in November of defrauding pharmaceutical companies out of millions of dollars in exchange for the promise he would use that money to help test potentially life-saving experimental drugs. His crimes included wire fraud, mail fraud, conspiracy, fraudulently obtaining controlled substances and furnishing false information to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

Between 2013 and 2018, Anwar used companies that he created, including Zain Research and Mid-Columbia Research, to pose as legitimate human clinical research trial sites and provide of false data regarding drug safety and drug efficacy to dozens of drug companies and, through them, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

According to evidence presented at trial, Anwar injected false safety data into the public health system about dozens of different drugs and medicines designed to treat heart disease, diabetes, asthma, pediatric illnesses, adolescent smoking, cirrhosis, scabies, depression and opioid addiction, among other diseases and conditions.

“Every day, Americans rely on the data from clinical research trials to keep us safe from deadly diseases and dangerous side effects,” said U.S. Attorney William Hyslop. “The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the vital ongoing clinical trials currently being conducted with regard to therapeutic treatments and vaccines, remind us every day how critical clinical research trials are and how important it is that that they be conducted honestly and reliably. Injecting fraudulent and corrupt data into the system is an egregious breach of the trust and faith that we all place in those who perform these vitally important trials.”

Anwar, who is not a licensed medical doctor, would pose as a doctor and forge the signatures of the doctors he employed as part of his scheme. In addition, over a dozen of his former employees testified that he directly instructed them to assist him in committing the fraud including falsifying medical records and data to admit dozens of ineligible research subjects. Not only did Anwar direct the fraud, but he engaged in threats, retaliation and intimidation in order to hide his crimes from drug companies, the FDA, which regulates human clinical trials in the U.S., and law enforcement.

Numerous former employees testified that Anwar filed false police reports, made false allegations to the Washington State Department of Health, the FDA, threatened them at their homes, at their places of work, slashed their tires and stalked them in order to prevent them from cooperating with the authorities.

In total, Anwar and his companies received over $5.6 million dollars from the fraud.

At Anwar’s sentencing hearing, U.S. Judge Edward Shea remarked that “the extent of the fraud is astounding” and noted that Anwar’s conduct “endangered countless lives.” Shea further stated that Anwar’s greed “knew no limit” and that he was “a vengeful human being who sought to punish anyone who threatened [his] scheme.”

In addition to Anwar’s 340-month sentence, he and his companies were ordered to pay $1,890,550.10 in restitution to the victims of the fraud, to forfeit $5,648,786.69 as proceeds of the fraud and to pay special penalty assessments of $24,300. Anwar was also sentenced to three years of supervised release following completion of his custodial sentence, with special conditions to protect his victims and former employees.

“I wish to especially commend the excellent work done by the investigative personnel with the Seattle and Spokane resident offices of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Diversion Group. Their exceptional investigative work made this result possible. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure that those who continue to abuse this trust and undermine our health care system are brought to justice,” said Hyslop.

“Justifiably, Sami Anwar will be sitting behind bars for a very long time, thinking about his despicable actions that betrayed the American public and all the healthcare heroes who conduct lifesaving clinical trials every day,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Cam Strahm. “I commend the hard work of the DEA Diversion Investigators who stopped Anwar from further injecting fraudulent data into the public health system.”