Massachusetts Physician Charged with Illegally Prescribing Suboxone
AG’s Investigation Alleges Doctor Charged Excess Patient Fees; Office Staff Conducted Medicaid Kickback Scheme with Clinical Laboratories Worth $590,000
BOSTON – The former director of a drug abuse clinic in Brighton has been indicted in connection with illegally prescribing a drug used to treat opiate addiction and collecting illegal fees from patients, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today. The clinic’s former office manager was also indicted for conducting an elaborate Medicaid kickback scheme worth more than $590,000.
The 48 indictments returned Thursday by a Suffolk Grand Jury against four defendants are the result of an industry-wide independent clinical laboratory investigation conducted by Attorney General Coakley’s Medicaid Fraud Division. The defendants will be summonsed for arraignment on April 4, 2013.
“Illegally prescribing drugs without a clear medical purpose puts vulnerable patients at serious risk for illness,” AG Coakley said. “On top of that, we allege these defendants stole money from taxpayers through this elaborate kickback scheme and will ensure that this corruption in the Medicaid system does not continue.”
“This shows that our strong program integrity system is working,” said MassHealth Director Dr. Julian Harris. “When MassHealth noticed irregularities in Dr. Ng’s practice, we immediately referred the case up for criminal investigation, and we applaud the Attorney General for taking the next steps towards holding these parties accountable.”
Dr. Richard Ng, 54, of Milton, who ran the clinic between 2006 and 2008, was charged with 11 counts of Illegal Prescribing, nine counts of Medicaid False Claims, and seven counts of Medicaid Excess Charges.
The AG’s Office alleges that Ng grew the clinic until he was treating more patients than legally permitted, and boosted his annual earnings to more than $575,000 in salary and bonuses. In order to maintain his large practice, Ng allegedly knowingly prescribed Suboxone, a drug used to treat opiate addiction, to nine of his patients that according to their urine drug screens were not taking the drug and continued to use illegal street drugs, including Heroin, Methadone and other opiates.
Ng also allegedly wrote Suboxone prescriptions in false patient names when two of his patients lost their insurance. Many of the Suboxone prescriptions at issue were billed to and paid for by the Massachusetts Medicaid Program (MassHealth).
The AG’s Office also alleges that Ng charged MassHealth patients a $100 “new patient registration fee,” via cash or check made out to him directly. This fee was in addition to receiving payment from MassHealth for all services rendered and is prohibited by MassHealth regulations and statute.
Renee Andrews, 43, of Hudson, NH, was charged with four counts of Medicaid Kickbacks, two counts of Medicaid False Claims, and five counts of Private Health Insurance Kickbacks. As Ng’s former office manager, she allegedly offered and entered into Medicaid kickback arrangements with two laboratories including Franey Medical Lab, Inc. in Hyannis and East Side Clinical Laboratory in East Providence, RI.
In exchange for Ng’s significant urine drug screening business, the laboratories paid the salaries of some of Ng’s office staff, including the full-time salaries of Andrews’ daughter, nephew and boyfriend, who also worked as medical assistants and performed other administrative duties. The drug screens resulting from the kickbacks were worth more than $590,000 and were paid for by MassHealth, as well as Medicare and private insurances.
Franey Medical Lab was charged with one count of Medicaid Kickbacks, one count of Medicaid False Claims, and three counts of Private Health Insurance kickbacks.
Kathleen Franey-Lopes, 35, of Marstons Mills, was charged with one count of Medicaid Kickbacks, one count of Medicaid False Claims, and three counts of Private Health Insurance Kickbacks. Franey, the daughter of the lab’s owner, was the primary contact with Ng’s office between March 2007 and March 2008.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney Generals Toby Unger and Angela Neal, of Attorney General Coakley’s Medicaid Fraud Division, and Deputy Chief of the Medicaid Fraud Division Steven Hoffman. The case was investigated by investigators Joseph Shea and Erica Schlain. This case was referred to the AG’s Office by MassHealth, who also assisted in the investigation.