NKY pain clinic owner, doctor convicted of healthcare fraud; acquitted of drug charges
CINCINNATI (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER) -The owner of a Northern Kentucky pain clinic and a doctor under his employ were found guilty on Thursday of healthcare fraud, but acquitted of drug charges, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.
Our media partners at the Cincinnati Enquirer say a federal jury in Covington convicted Timothy Ehn, a licensed chiropractor, and owner of the Northern Kentucky Center for Pain Relief in Florence, on one count each of healthcare fraud, and conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, court records show. Dr. William Siefert, the clinic’s medical director, was found guilty of a single count of healthcare fraud.
The two men were each found not guilty of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, according to the court records. Siefert was also acquitted of nine counts of distribution of a controlled substance and one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud.
Thursday’s verdict comes more than two years after Siefert and Ehn were first indicted.
Prosecutors have said Siefert and Ehn offered “easy access” to opioids, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, to drug-seeking patients who shouldn’t have received such medications, then submitted fraudulent reimbursement claims for “medically unnecessary” urine drug testing related to those patients.
“The more procedures Siefert and Ehn billed, the more money (the clinic) would receive in reimbursements from Medicare, Medicaid, and other health care benefit programs, and the more money Siefert and Ehn would ultimately receive in compensation,” prosecutors said in a 19-page indictment.
According to the indictment, the prescriptions written by Siefert, with Ehn’s consent, were a contributing factor in the opioid overdose deaths of at least seven former patients.
The prescribing was driven in part by Siefert and Ehn’s desire and intent to bill for urine drug tests, prosecutors said in court filings, adding they “did not care about the overdose deaths and did not change (the clinic’s) prescribing practices after learning about the deaths.”
Benjamin Glassman, Ehn’s lawyer, said federal authorities couldn’t establish that the prescriptions had caused those deaths, or that anyone at the clinic was aware the patients had died.
Siefert and Ehn were never charged in connection with the patients’ deaths and the jury ultimately found them not guilty of the alleged drug crimes. In order to secure a conviction on the distribution of a controlled substance counts, prosecutors had to prove Siefert knew his prescribing was illegitimate or outside the usual course of medical practice.
In a motion filed before the trial, Siefert and Ehn asked the court to preclude prosecutors from presenting evidence of the uncharged patient deaths, saying in part that those deaths aren’t relevant to the case. In August, U.S. District Judge David Bunning denied that motion, court records show.
“The healthcare fraud convictions are disappointing because we presented strong evidence at trial that the Northern Kentucky Center for Pain Relief cared for its patients, and every urinalysis test was ordered by a highly qualified medical doctor in the course of treating those patients,” Glassman said in a statement to The Enquirer.
Lindsay Gerdes, who represented Siefert alongside Michael Ferrara and Madeline Pinto of Dinsmore & Shohl, said the healthcare fraud conviction is disappointing, adding the prosecution’s case was “fraught with error” and may have “improperly swayed” the jury’s verdict on that count.
“Their verdict confirms what we have always known: Dr. Siefert was offering much-needed care and treatment to his patients as they battled chronic pain,” Gerdes said in a statement. “Dr. Siefert will continue to fight to clear his name, and we remain optimistic about his prospect for reversal on appeal.”
Court records show Siefert and Ehn are scheduled to appear in court for sentencing on Sept. 20.
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