June 25, 2013

Doctor found guilty in health care scheme


Associated Press

ATLANTA — A doctor was found guilty of 27 counts of health care fraud, tax fraud and money laundering in a scheme aimed at luring Medicare patients from across the country to his Atlanta clinic, U.S. Attorney’s officials said Monday.

Lawrence Eppelbaum, of Roswell, was convicted of using money he funneled into a purported charity that he controlled to fund Medicare patients’ travel to Atlanta between 2004 and 2009.

Patients visited the Atlanta Institute of Medicine and Rehabilitation — which Eppelbaum, 54, owns and operates — before visiting a hot spring in Florida for four days, prosecutors said. After visiting Florida, patients returned to Atlanta for additional treatment before going back home.

Eppelbaum was paid about $16 million from Medicare in the scheme, officials said.

“In addition to the Hippocratic oath, Medicare doctors take a special oath that they will not interfere with a patient’s ability to choose a doctor based on medical needs alone,” U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said in a statement. “This defendant violated that oath in favor of personal greed. As a result, he has done harm to his future rights and liberties.”

In 2004, the doctor created the Back Pain Fund — which was the organization whose funding he used to finance the patients’ travel expenses.

Authorities say Eppelbaum tried concealing his control over the Back Pain Fund by having parents of students at a local religious school make tuition checks out to the charity. He then repaid the school for the amount of the tuition plus 25 percent interest, authorities said.

Eppelbaum also was accused of using the fund to evade about $1 million in taxes because he declared payments that he made to the Back Pain Fund, the school and other organizations as charitable.

Eppelbaum’s sentencing date hasn’t been set.