HOUSTON – A Houston man was sentenced to almost four years in prison Monday for his role in a scheme to give hundreds of people fake flu shots during a health fair at an Exxon Mobil Corp. refinery in Baytown in 2005.
Iyad Abu El Hawa, 36, pleaded guilty in September to health care fraud and drug misbranding.
About 1,100 people received the fake shots. The syringes contained sterile water and were marked with fake bar codes.
El Hawa was sentenced to three years, 10 months. A hearing on restitution will be held in two weeks for El Hawa and co-defendant Martha Denise Gonzales. Gonzales, 50, also pleaded guilty last year and is to be sentenced Thursday.
Rocket Rosen, El Hawa's attorney, said expenses incurred by Exxon Mobil to test the workers should not have been factored into the sentence.
"At no time did he want to steal $700,000 from Exxon," Rosen said in a story in Monday's online edition of the Houston Chronicle.
The company said it spent more than $700,000 to provide blood tests and other services.
"We are pleased that El Hawa is being held accountable for his actions," Baytown refinery spokesman Russ Roberts said.
El Hawa, who owns several Houston health care businesses, said he purchased thousands of syringes and needles and used a doctor's name without authorization.
A nurse hired by El Hawa to help give the shots discovered the fraud.
Rosen said El Hawa, a citizen on Palestine, will be deported after completing his sentence.