Leaders of a chain of addiction treatment centers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts conspired to defraud patients and insurance companies by cycling people through treatment sessions as short as five minutes but billing for longer ones, federal prosecutors alleged Thursday.
The CEO of Recovery Connections Centers of America, Michael Brier, was arrested Thursday morning at his home in Newton, Massachusetts and its supervising counselor, Mi Ok Bruining, dubbed "the five minute queen," was arrested at her home in Warwick, Rhode Island, according to Zachary Cunha, the U.S. attorney for the District of Rhode Island. They are accused of orchestrating the addiction therapy fraud scheme.
"It cheated a vulnerable population of recovery patients out of the full and genuine support and treatment that they needed," Cunha said at a news conference.
Recovery Connection has about 1,700 patients, slightly more than half in Rhode Island, Cunha said. Federal resources were being brought in to connect the patients with treatment through a rapid response program.
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Anyone in Rhode Island who needs new or continued prescriptions can call 401-606-5454, and anyone who needs to speak with a counselor or doctor or get clinic information can call 410-414-LINK. The same services are available in Massachusetts at 617-414-4175 and 800-327-5050, respectively.
It wasn't immediately clear if Brier or Bruining had attorney who could speak to the allegations.
The insurance fraud scheme at Recovery Connections Centers of America bilked public and private insurers out of millions of dollars, prosecutors said. One bill allegedly totaled services for 28.5 hours in one 24-hour day.
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"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," said Joseph Bonavolonta, the special agent in charge of FBI's Boston office.
Brier, who was convicted of federal tax crimes a decade ago, is also accused of falsely using the identifying information of doctors to apply for prescriptions. He also used false information to create the business in the first place, Cunha said: "This center should never have opened."