Alleged billion-dollar fraud scheme leads to guilty plea by former Outcome Health exec

Ashik Desai, once a vice president at the company, also has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

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Ashik Desai entered his guilty plea Monday at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in Chicago. Federal prosecutors filed charges against Deasi and other Outcome Health executives, including CEO Rishi Shah, last month.

Sun-Times file photo

A 26-year-old student pleaded guilty Monday to his role in an alleged $1 billion fraud scheme at the health care information and advertising company Outcome Health.

Ashik Desai, once a vice president at the company, pleaded guilty to wire fraud in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin. Federal prosecutors filed charges against him and other Outcome executives, including CEO Rishi Shah, last month.

In pleading guilty Monday, Desai agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and put off his own sentencing until the case against the Outcome Health executives is complete. If he cooperates as expected, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Madden said prosecutors would recommend he serve no more than 10 years in prison.

Desai told the judge he is living in Philadelphia and pursuing a master’s degree.

Another executive charged in the case, Brad Purdy, also pleaded not guilty Monday.

Outcome placed TV screens, tablets and other displays full of educational content in doctors’ offices and sold advertising space to pharmaceutical companies, court records show. Desai joined Outcome, also known as ContextMedia, on a full-time basis in July 2013.

Desai and other executives allegedly lied to Outcome’s clients about the network of offices it could target for advertising and about how many screens the ads would appear on, and then it inflated the numbers indicating how often patients would engage with the screens, prosecutors allege.

When clients asked which offices their advertisements were appearing in, Desai and the other executives would allegedly sometimes lie and sometimes simply not answer, citing privacy concerns.

Desai and the other executives would also lie in monthly affidavits sent to clients claiming Outcome met its contractual obligations by running ads on a certain number of screens and in a certain number of offices, the feds have alleged.

They also lied to an auditor who asked for proof that Outcome had delivered on its obligations to its clients in 2015 and 2016, according to the charges.

Outcome’s executives allegedly used their inflated financial statements to raise nearly $1 billion in debt and equity financing in 2016 and 2017, prosecutors say.

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