Texas Man Sentenced to 46 Months In Federal Prison for Bogus Flu Shot Scam

Iyad Abu El Hawa, who had pleaded guilty to charges of healthcare fraud, was sentenced last Monday to 46 months in federal prison 240317_prison_at_robben_island.jpg for Medicare fraud and misbranding drugs stemming from an October 2005 health fair at Exxon Mobil, at which 1,100 employees and contractors received what they thought to be flu vaccines.
El Hawa,36, and several assistants filled the syringes with sterile water at the request of Martha Denise Gonzales, an unlicensed nurse who signed a field services contract with Exxon Mobil to deliver the flu vaccines, which at the time were extremely rare. Gonzales had already administered fake vaccines to 14 residents of a Houston-area senior care facility.
El Hawa’s attorney had pressed for a lighter sentence — the charges carry a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine — because of El Hawa’s cooperation with federal prosecutors and investigators. However, the Government’s motion for downward departure for a sentence below the recommended sentencing guideline range was also denied. The total amount of fine and restitution will be determined on May 14, 2007, the same date that sentencing is set for Gonzales.
Arguing that El Hawa should also bear the cost of the oil company’s expenses incurred to screen those who received the bogus flu shots for possible infections, Assistant U.S. Attorney Suzanne Bradley Bradley said “The court has to abide by and embrace relevant conduct.” However, Judge Kenneth Hoyt did not verbally express agreement or disagreement, but he refused to officially take the incurred expenses off the sentencing table. “There has to be some accountability,” Hoyt said.
El Hawa, who carries both Israeli and Jordanian passports and is of Palestinian descent, will not be allowed to live in the United States once he is released from prison.
El Hawa’s wife, brother-in-law and a coworker were at Monday’s sentencing. When the sentence was read, El Hawa’s wife broke into tears, holding her face in her hands. Outside the courthouse, her grief turned to anger at the media, the FBI and Gonzales.
“My husband is a good man,” she said, echoing her husband’s attorney’s remarks that one episode of misconduct was not representative of El Hawa. Right now “It’s Arabs’ turn to be persecuted. It was just a big rush to judgment. The media reported all these things about me being unlicensed and me not being a citizen, when neither of those things are true. He made a mistake — he just got caught up with the wrong person.”