PROVIDENCE – The Massachusetts operator of a chain of addiction treatment clinics is charged in federal court in Providence, RI, with millions of dollars of health care fraud, aggravated identity theft, money laundering and obstruction, announced United States Attorney Zachary A. Cunha. In addition, the treatment center and its former supervisory counselor were also charged with health care fraud.
Michael Brier, 60, of Newton, MA, Mi Ok Bruining, 62, of Warwick, RI, and Recovery Connections Centers of America, Inc. (RCCA) are charged by criminal complaint with health care fraud. Michael Brier was also charged in the complaint with aggravated identity theft, money laundering and obstruction.
It is alleged in court documents that, Brier, Bruining, and RCCA shortchanged Rhode Island and Massachusetts substance abuse disorder patients out of much needed counseling and treatment services, while defrauding Medicare, Medicaid, and other health insurers out of millions of dollars.
At a press conference announcing the culmination of this investigation and resulting criminal charges and arrests, United States Attorney Zachary A. Cunha commented, “What makes the fraud scheme that we have charged today particularly pernicious – is that not only was this scheme, as we allege, designed to defraud by enriching these defendants with federal and private healthcare dollars they did not earn, but that in the process it cheated a vulnerable population of recovery patients out of the full, genuine support and treatment that they need to have a chance at recovery.”
"Today’s arrests serve as a strong reminder that we will not tolerate fraud schemes that target our federal health care programs, as alleged, nor will we accept anything less than high quality care for the people served by those programs,” said Special Agent in Charge Phillip M. Coyne of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General. “Our agency’s mission is to protect the well-being of the public and the integrity of the federal health care system, and we will hold accountable those who seek to exploit the opioid epidemic for personal gain.”
“Today, we arrested and charged Michael Brier, Mi Ok Bruining, and Recovery Connections Centers of America, for a wide-ranging scheme in which they are accused of abusing our health care system, cheating taxpayers, and leveraging the opioid crisis to take advantage of those struggling with substance abuse so the company could rake in millions,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division. “The allegations set forth in this case represent one of the most brazen and egregious examples of health care fraud the FBI has seen here in Rhode Island in recent history, and make no mistake, it is not a victimless crime. Anytime the integrity of our federal health care programs is undermined, we all pay the price through the cost of higher insurance premiums, greater out-of-pocket expenses, and co-pays, and even reduced or lost benefits.”
According to the charging documents, Brier, Bruining and RCCA operated a chain of addiction treatment centers but failed to provide the patients with the required counseling sessions and treatment, while simultaneous billing Medicare, Medicaid and other health care payors for 45-minute counseling sessions on a routine basis even though the sessions were not more than 15 minutes, and often only 5-10 minutes or less. At times, so many counseling sessions were billed at this level that the total amount of time would be impossible for the available therapist to have provided in any 24 hours period.
Brier and RCCA are also alleged to have caused a fraudulent application to be submitted to Medicare which, among other things, misrepresented and concealed the role that Brier was playing in the business and failed to disclose Brier’s 2013 criminal conviction for federal tax crimes, which was relevant to Medicare’s consideration of the application.
The Complaint also alleges that Brier purported to practice medicine and wrote and caused to be filled fraudulent prescriptions using the names and prescriber information, including Drug Enforcement Administration numbers, of doctors without their permission.
Brier is also alleged to have falsified a document in a matter within the jurisdiction of an agency of the United States by causing the Medical Director to sign a false and back-dated document.
The complaint alleges that defendants caused millions of dollars in fraudulent billings to be submitted to Medicare and millions more in fraudulent billings to other health care payors.
The government is also seeking to forfeit thirteen bank accounts, two buildings, and two vehicles allegedly realized by the defendants as a result of the alleged criminal conduct.
A federal criminal complaint is merely an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Sara Miron Bloom and Kevin Love Hubbard.
The matter was investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. United States Attorney Cunha thanks the IRS, Customs and Border Protection, and the Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General for their assistance in the investigation.
Additionally, United States Attorney Cunha thanks the United States Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control, and their partners in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, for their quick response to establish services for patients who may be impacted by this law enforcement action.
Additionally, United States Attorney Cunha thanks the United States Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Opioid Rapid Response Program, and their partners in Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare and Massachusetts Department of Public Health, for assisting patients who may be impacted by this law enforcement action.
Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals is working to assure continuity of treatment for RCCA patients. Rhode Island patients in need of a new or immediate bridge prescription are urged to call (401) 606-5454; Rhode Island patients in need of behavioral health referrals for physicians, counselor, or clinic information may call (410) 414-LINK.
Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Bureau of Substance Addiction Service is working to assure continuity of care and treatment RCCA patients. Massachusetts patients in need of a new or immediate bridge prescription are urged to call (617) 414-4175; Massachusetts patients in need of behavioral health referrals for physicians, counselor, or other services may call (800) 327-5050 or use helplinema.com.
USAO - Rhode Island;Criminal Investigative Division (FBI);
Department of Health and Human Services OIG