Here’s why a Tri-City researcher accused of drug trial fraud is still in jail

Sami Anwar, the owner of Mid-Columbia Research and Zain Research, faces 47 federal charges in U.S. District Court, for allegedly faking and falsifying drug trial data.
Sami Anwar, the owner of Mid-Columbia Research and Zain Research, faces 47 federal charges in U.S. District Court, for allegedly faking and falsifying drug trial data. Tri-City Herald

A Tri-Cities man who faces a long list of federal charges for allegedly falsifying clinical drug trial data will remain behind bars for the time being.

A federal judge on Friday granted prosecutors’ request to keep Sami Anwar jailed until his trial. Judge John T. Rodgers said the 40-year-old poses “a present risk to the safety of other persons or the community” and is a flight risk.

The ruling came a week after a roughly two-hour hearing on the issue in federal court in Richland.

Prosecutor Tyler Tornabene argued that Anwar has a history of intimidating witnesses, has the resources and international ties to flee and is a danger to the public, while Anwar’s attorney said none of that is true and the father of two young children should be released while he waits to prove his innocence.

“When you dial down, this is a fictional story,” Scott Johnson, Anwar’s attorney, told the judge

He added that “it’s unfair, it’s un-American to accuse somebody without proof.”

Anwar — who trained as a doctor in his native Pakistan but isn’t licensed here — faces charges of mail and wire fraud, conspiracy to commit those crimes, and also fraudulently obtaining controlled substances.

Prosecutors claim he faked and falsified clinical drug trial data to line his own pockets.

Anwar was arrested Nov. 8, two days after a grand jury returned a 47-count indictment naming him and two Richland research companies he owns. The companies are Mid-Columbia Research and Zain Research.

Anwar denies the allegations and has pleaded innocent.

In the motion to keep him jailed pending trial, prosecutors wrote that Anwar has “engaged in multiple and repeated attempts to obstruct justice designed to manipulate and intimidate (witnesses)“ since he learned the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency was investigating him.

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File Tri-City Herald

That included trying to frame an employee cooperating with the DEA for theft and prescription drug possession and threatening employees by alluding to ties to the Pakistani underworld, prosecutors allege.

In another instance, an employee’s tires were slashed six times over four months after Anwar learned the employee was cooperating with investigators, prosecutors said.

They also said Anwar’s substantial financial resources and international ties make him a flight risk.

And his alleged crimes — which resulted in, among other things, corrupted medical records of legitimate patients and corrupted medical research — mean he’s a danger to the public, they said.

Johnson countered the allegations in his response.

Anwar “vigorously” denies the allegations in the indictment, but even so they involve fraud against one or more pharmaceutical companies, and not crimes that endanger people or the public, he said.

The government’s case is based on the word of disgruntled employees, he said.

There’s no doubt that “a number of employees” who were fired over misconduct and potential criminal activity are angry at Anwar, and that anger “helps explain the false narrative they are willing to provide, and the government is willing to accept,” Johnson wrote in his response.

The claim about Anwar trying to frame a witness, for example, is “fanciful,” with the government offering no explanation of how Anwar was able to break into the car and plant evidence, Johnson said.

The same goes for the claim he intimidated witnesses by invoking ties to Pakistani criminals, Johnson said, adding that Anwar has no such ties. He became a U.S. citizen in 2012.

In the tire case, police investigated and there is “not a scintilla of evidence” that Anwar had anything to do with the tires, and in fact it’s more likely the witness slashed her own tires to frame Anwar, Johnson said.

He added that Anwar doesn’t have a valid passport, his sisters living overseas don’t have substantial assets, and his wife, young children and elderly mother live in the Tri-Cities — meaning he’s not a flight risk.

In his ruling, Rodgers said the allegations about Anwar’s conduct during the investigation, “though one-sided and untested, represent significant risks to the administration of justice and community safety.”

His “broadly obstructive conduct allegedly occurred multiple times and involved an inventive spectrum of perceived or actual threats to the personal, professional or legal well-being of a wide range of individuals,” Rodgers wrote in the ruling, adding that “the threats are heightened because they allegedly continued even after (Anwar) knew he was being investigated by law enforcement.”

Rodgers said he was convinced Anwar is a flight risk.

Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529, sschilling@tricityherald.com