A former co-owner of a medical clinic which had an office in North Olmsted and a doctor who worked there were indicted last week on 170 charges involving medical fraud in what one law enforcement officer deemed a “pill mill.”
Diane Javier, 71, and Dr. Stephen Bernie of the Medical Care Group were indicted last week by the Cuyahoga County Grand Jury after an investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation and the Westshore Enforcement Bureau. The Medical Care Group had offices in Cleveland, North Olmsted, Parma, Euclid and Warrensville Heights. Those indictments come after Kim Seltzer, a former worker at the group’s North Olmsted Lorain Road office, plead guilty last year to Worker’s Compensation fraud, tampering with records and drug fraud, all stemming from his work at the North Olmsted office. Seltzer is currently serving a 51-month sentence at the Mansfield Correctional Institution.
BWC and Westshore Enforcement Bureau members conducted a lengthy investigation which is still underway, Melissa Vince, a spokeswoman for the BWC, said.
“It’s still an open investigation,” she said. “We would expect some arraignments soon on the indictments which were handed down last week.”
Jeff Capretto, head of the WEB unit, said investigators developed confidential sources who went to the office and got prescriptions easily from the staff.
“This is a perfect example of what is called a ‘pill mill,’” Capretto said. “People were able to go into the office and, after they paid, have a short visit with a doctor and get a prescription which they would be able to fill and get pills.”
Law enforcement officials said this type of activity contributes to society’s current drug issues.
“Ohio is in the middle of an opiate epidemic, and blatant improper prescribing, such as what is alleged in this case, is contributing to the drug crisis,” said Attorney General Mike DeWine.
“This is exactly the type of medicine you don’t want practiced,” Capretto said. “People getting little or no examination and then being able to access drugs without making sure they were appropriate for proper treatment.”
The indictment charges the defendants handed out prescriptions for medications including powerful opioids without examining or monitoring the individuals requesting them and routinely tampered with official records.
Dr. Bernie, 77, and the business are named in all 170 counts of the indictment. Ms. Javier, 71, is named in 75 counts.
Capretto said while still at the North Olmsted office, if doctors were not present, Seltzer would take patients’ money and also write prescriptions. He said Seltzer allegedly claimed to have medical credentials from another country.
According to the indictment, “Undercover agents and a confidential informant saw
Bernie month after month and never received a proper medical examination. Dr. Bernie said he conducted injured worker examinations when he did not. Dr. Bernie signed prescriptions that were passed out to injured workers/patients when Dr. Bernie was on vacation.”
Investigators estimate the criminal acts of the defendants cost the state of Ohio roughly $216,000.
“These defendants and their criminal enterprise stole money from the state of Ohio that was supposed to be set aside to help injured workers,” said Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Jennifer L. O’Malley of the Economic Crime Unit. “This kind of fraud is unfair to the employers whose premiums fund the system, to honest providers and to workers who deserve only the best care.”
In addition to engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a felony of the first degree, the indictment includes counts of conspiracy, Workers’ Compensation fraud, theft, tampering with records, drug trafficking and telecommunications fraud.
Published by westlife.northcoastnow.com