15 addiction treatment centers close following CEO fraud charges

Providence, R.I.-based Recovery Connection Centers of America has closed its chain of 15 facilities across Rhode Island and Massachusetts after its founder was charged with healthcare fraud, WBUR reported March 2. 

Michael Brier, 60, of Newton, Mass., Mi Ok Bruining, 62, of Warwick, R.I., and Recovery Connections Centers of America have all been charged by criminal complaint with healthcare fraud, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice. Mr. Brier was also charged with aggravated identity theft, money laundering and obstruction. 

The defendants allegedly shortchanged substance abuse patients and defrauded Medicaid, Medicare and other health insurers for millions of dollars by billing for 45-minute counseling sessions on a routine basis even though the sessions were not more than 15 minutes — often only five to 10 minutes or less. Allegedly, the counseling sessions were billed at a level that the total amount of time would be impossible for the available therapist to have provided in a 24 hour period. Ms. Bruining, a supervisory counselor, allegedly trained other counselors on how to fraudulently bill for services.

Mr. Brier and RCCA are also alleged to have submitted a fraudulent application to Medicare that concealed Mr. Brier's role with the facility. The application also allegedly failed to disclose Mr. Brier's criminal conviction for federal tax crimes in 2013, which is relevant to Medicare's consideration of the application, according to the Justice Department.

Additionally, Mr. Brier stands accused of claiming to practice medicine and writing fraudulent prescriptions using names, prescriber information and Drug Enforcement Administration numbers of physicians without their permission. 

The government is looking to forfeit 13 bank accounts, two buildings and two vehicles related to the defendants as a result of the alleged crimes. 

The 15 facilities formerly served 1,600 patients.

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