Search warrants outline millions in suspected fraud at drug rehab clinic

Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner's Fraud Unit's chief investigator, Sherry Mowell (left) looks on as Gwinnett County D.A. Office investigator, Roy Mangrum (right) brings out another computer from Narconon of Georgia offices as authorities served a search warrant on Friday, April 26, 2013.
Caption
Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner's Fraud Unit's chief investigator, Sherry Mowell (left) looks on as Gwinnett County D.A. Office investigator, Roy Mangrum (right) brings out another computer from Narconon of Georgia offices as authorities served a search warrant on Friday, April 26, 2013.

Credit: John Spink, jspink@ajc.com

Credit: John Spink, jspink@ajc.com

Affidavits for search warrants executed last month at Narconon of Georgia outline allegations of widespread insurance fraud totaling nearly $3 million.

Altogether 847 claims filed since 2009 by the Norcross drug treatment clinic are being investigated by the Gwinnett County district attorney. Two insurers — United HealthCare and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia — were billed and more than $1 million was paid out, the affidavits reveal.

In February, the AJC reported that Narconon of Georgia allegedly billed a patient’s insurer $166,275 for doctor visits that never occurred and treatment that was never provided.

Acting on that information, state Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens launched a probe that’s now being spearheaded by Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter.

“Narconon is aware of the investigation,” Narconon International President Clark Carr said in a statement. “Narconon of Georgia follows customary and professional billing practices and procedures. Payment terms are clearly explained to all students.”

Meanwhile, according to the affidavits, two doctors whose names appear on the bills Narconon submitted to insurers are cooperating with the Gwinnett district attorney.

Documents show that Lisa Robbins told investigators she performed physicals on new patients and that she was paid by the Church of Scientology-affiliated clinic for those services, either by credit card or check, but insists she never gave permission to bill for services using her name.

Casey Locarini, the other doctor listed in insurer charges, said “he never set foot at any of Narconon’s facilities nor did he bill any insurance companies for his services,” according to the documents.

The bills submitted by Narconon — at the time licensed as an outpatient facility — were for services including “room and board and partial hospitalization.”

The Department of Community Health revoked Narconon’s license last December following a decade’s worth of complaints that it was illegally operating a residential facility. Narconon remains open pending its appeal of the DCH ruling.

The investigation into insurance fraud arises from a complaint by Mary Morton of Rome, who said she discovered unauthorized claims to her insurer, UHC, for partial hospitalization and “intensive outpatient services” rendered to her 19-year-old daughter, who enrolled in Narconon of Georgia in March 2012.

Morton was told at the time her insurance wouldn’t cover her daughter’s treatment and provided receipts showing she paid Narconon of Georgia $15,000 – in advance and for the total cost of treatment, according to her contract — along with another $1,600 per month for housing.

She later discovered her carrier had been billed an average of $4,800 a week for “intensive care.”

“They’re double and triple billing for things that never occurred, and the end result is she didn’t get any better,” Morton told the AJC earlier this year.

Porter said the investigation could take several months.

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