Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Doctor convicted of fraud

Paul Egan / The Detroit News
DETROIT -- A Detroit doctor faces a possible 15-year prison sentence after a federal jury on Monday convicted him and his medical biller of 80 counts of conspiracy, health care fraud and mail fraud.

U.S. District Judge Marianne O. Battani ordered Dr. Zack Brown, 61, taken immediately into custody following the unanimous guilty verdict on all counts.

"I think that he is a danger to the community," Battani said of the physician, who has two previous felony convictions.

Brown's medical biller, Davell Culberson, 68, also of Detroit, was released on bond until Sept. 6, when he and Brown are to be sentenced.

Together, Brown and Culberson were charged with defrauding Blue Cross Blue Shield of more than $750,000 between 1999 and 2004. Assistant U.S. Attorney James Mitzelfeld told jurors the pair used the insurer's health cards like ATM cards.

The jury deliberated less than an hour following a trial that spanned three weeks.

Health care fraud "increases the cost of health care for all citizens of Michigan, which is something we can't afford," said U.S. Attorney Stephen Murphy.

Brown's lawyer, John Minock of Ann Arbor, said he will appeal the verdict based on evidence he said should not have been admitted.

Culberson's lawyer, Paul Muller of Farmington, argued his client never knowingly submitted a fraudulent bill. Muller could not immediately be reached.

In 1996, Blue Cross removed Brown's rights to bill the insurer directly, meaning Brown's patients had to bill. Brown was accused of recruiting patients who submitted bills for physical therapy, injections and other treatment they never received and split the proceeds with the doctor.

But Brown got sloppy, the court was told, billing for ultrasound and hot pack treatments on Aug. 15, 2003 -- a day the entire region was under a massive blackout.

Brown was convicted of mail fraud in 1987 and dispensing drugs without a license in 1995.

source :www.detnews.com

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