An Atlanta doctor was convicted on 27 charges of health care fraud, tax fraud and money laundering, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Monday.
Lawrence Edward Eppelbaum, 54, of Roswell, devised a scheme in which he illegally induced patients from all over the country to be treated at his Atlanta medical clinic by providing free travel accommodations through his own bogus charity, U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said in an emailed statement.
“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,” Yates said. “This defendant violated that oath in favor of personal greed. As a result, he has done harm to his future rights and liberties.”
Eppelbaum is a licensed physician who owns and operates the “Atlanta Institute of Medicine and Rehabilitation” and the “Pain Clinic of AIMR” in Atlanta, Yates said. In June 2011, he was indicted for allegedly bilking Medicare and the IRS of roughly $16 million over five years.
On Monday, a federal jury convicted Eppelbaum following a two-week trial, Yates said.
Eppelbaum used a bogus non-profit to provide travel kickbacks to his patients, funnel money through an area Jewish day school to disguise his funding, and file false charitable deductions to avoid paying federal taxes, according to evidence produced in court. Between 2004 and 2009, Eppelbaum treated hundreds of Back Pain Fund patients and received approximately $16 million for their treatment from Medicare. He also evaded approximately $1 million in federal income taxes through his scheme, Yates said.
“Eppelbaum thought his clever scheme was undetectable, but was outwitted by my investigators and other law enforcement officers,” said Derrick L. Jackson with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Atlanta Region. “Criminals defrauding government health programs can expect to be brought to justice regardless of how intricate their plots.”
The health care charges each carry a maximum sentence of 10 years or five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. The tax charges each carry a maximum sentence of five years or three years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. The money laundering charges each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.
Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, an ardent opponent of the Affordable Care Act, recently likened people with pre-existing medical conditions to wrecked cars and appeared to suggest that the sick are at fault for their illnesses just as drivers are at fault for their accidents.