PROVIDENCE – The Massachusetts operator of a behavioral health clinic and a Warwick social worker employed as supervisor face federal charges in today’s addiction clinic fraud bust by FBI agents.
Investigators allege the scheme resulted in millions of dollars of health care fraud, as well as aggravated identity theft, money laundering and obstruction.
Michael Brier, 60, of Newton, MA, Mi Ok Bruining, 62, of Warwick, RI, and Recovery Connections Centers of America, Inc. (RCCA) were charged in federal court in Providence, RI, today with health care fraud, United States Attorney Zachary A. Cunha‘s office announced. Brier was also charged in the complaint with aggravated identity theft, money laundering and obstruction. FBI agents arrested the pair today.
RCCA, headquartered in Providence on Wickeden Street, has seven locations, according to its LInkedIN profile, the other six in Massachusetts, in Attleboro, Brockton, North Dartmouth, Taunton, Natick and Worcester.
Court documents allege that Brier, Bruining, and RCCA shortchanged Rhode Island and Massachusetts substance abuse disorder patients out of much needed counseling and treatment services, while defrauding Medicare, Medicaid, and other health insurers out of millions of dollars.
Bruining, an independent clinical social worker, licensed in RI since 2018, was hired by Brier as a supervisor of counselors for RCCA, according to the affidavit.
Bruining admitted to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Special Agent Lindsay Walford with the Office of Inspector General that RCCA had been billing counseling sessions for 45 minutes when in fact they lasted only a few minutes to 15 minutes and that she knew it was wrong. “She also made clear that this practice was undertaken at the direction of Brier and that Brier was fully aware of it and that it was wrong,” according to the affidavit.
At times, court documents allege, so many counseling sessions were billed at this level that the total amount of time would be impossible for the available therapist to have provided all the counseling in any 24-hour period.
Additional charges against RCCA and Brier outlined in the affidavit include:
Fraudulent Application for Medicare Provider Status: “RCCA and Brier caused a fraudulent application to be submitted to Medicare which, among other things, misrepresented and concealed the role that Brier was playing in the business and failed to disclose his relevant criminal record
Unlicensed Practice of Medicine and Submitting Fraudulent Prescriptions: “Brier purported to practice medicine and wrote and caused to be filled
prescriptions using the names and prescriber information, including Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) numbers, of doctors without their
“What makes the fraud scheme that we have charged today particularly pernicious – is that not only was this scheme, as we allege, designed to defraud by enriching these defendants with federal and private healthcare dollars they did not earn, but that in the process it cheated a vulnerable population of recovery patients out of the full, genuine support and treatment that they need to have a chance at recovery,” said Cunha.
“Today, we arrested and charged Michael Brier, Mi Ok Bruining, and Recovery Connections Centers of America, for a wide-ranging scheme in which they are accused of abusing our health care system, cheating taxpayers, and leveraging the opioid crisis to take advantage of those struggling with substance abuse so the company could rake in millions,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division. “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, and make no mistake, it is not a victimless crime. Anytime the integrity of our federal health care programs is undermined, we all pay the price through the cost of higher insurance premiums, greater out-of-pocket expenses, and co-pays, and even reduced or lost benefits.”
The matter was investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General and the FBI.
Cunha thanked the IRS, Customs and Border Protection, and the Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General for their assistance in the addiction clinic fraud investigation; United States Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control, and their partners in Rhode Island and Massachusetts for their quick response to establish services for patients who may be impacted by this law enforcement action, and the United States Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Opioid Rapid Response Program, and their partners in Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare and Massachusetts Department of Public Health, for assisting patients who may be impacted by this law enforcement action.
\Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals is working to assure continuity of treatment for RCCA patients. Rhode Island patients in need of a new or immediate bridge prescription are urged to call (401) 606-5454; Rhode Island patients in need of behavioral health referrals for physicians, counselor, or clinic information may call (410) 414-LINK.
Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Bureau of Substance Addiction Service is working to assure continuity of care and treatment RCCA patients. Massachusetts patients in need of a new or immediate bridge prescription are urged to call (617) 414-4175; Massachusetts patients in need of behavioral health referrals for physicians, counselor, or other services may call (800) 327-5050 or use helplinema.com.
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