Physician and Physician's Assistant Sentenced for Their Roles in Prescription Drug and Medicare Fraud Conspiracies
|U.S. Attorney’s Office October 15, 2010|
TAMPA, FL—U.S. Attorney Robert E. O'Neill announces that U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich today sentenced Doctor Jeffrey Friedlander (age 50, a physician from Palmetto, Florida) to nine years, and Troy Wubbena (age 44, a physician's assistant from Tampa) to ten years, in federal prison for conspiring to defraud Medicare and for illegally prescribing controlled substances, primarily Oxycodone, Morphine, Hydrocodone, and Alprazolam. The court also entered a money judgment in the amount of $317,047.13, for which Wubbena and Friedlander were held jointly and severally liable. This amount represents the value of the proceeds the defendants received as a result of their illegal activities. The Court also ordered the forfeiture of Wubbena’s right, title and interest in his Florida Physician Assistant License and Friedlander's right, title and interest in his DEA Registrations and Florida Medical License.
According to court documents, Friedlander was a physician licensed to practice medicine in the State of Florida in the areas of Internal Medicine, Neurology, Pain Management and Vascular and Interventional Radiology. He practiced primarily out of a medical business known as " Neurology and Pain Center," (NPC) with clinics located in Tampa, Sarasota, Lakeland, St. Petersburg, Jacksonville, and Orlando, Florida. Wubbena, a physician assistant with an active license to practice in the State of Florida, was prohibited from dispensing, administering, or prescribing controlled substances. He worked under the supervision of Doctor Friedlander and was part owner of the clinics with Doctor Friedlander. Doctor Friedlander, was also a participating physician in Medicare who submitted claims for reimbursement under Medicare Part B, and wrote prescriptions for controlled substances to Medicare beneficiaries that were filled under Medicare Part D.
According to court documents, during the course of the operation of the NPC, Friedlander had allowed the prescribing of controlled substances to patients by unauthorized employees, including Wubbena, without his presence, participation and adequate supervision. They would use blank prescription forms pre-signed by Doctor Friedlander. Many of these prescriptions were issued for controlled substances to patients without conducting adequate physical exams, making proper diagnosis or considering alternative treatment options. The defendants know that the patients were misusing or abusing the controlled substances. This practice of illegally prescribing controlled substances was confirmed through the use of undercover detectives of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office who posed as patients. The agents visited Neurology and Pain Center clinics on six occasions.
Court documents also state that between 2005 and March of 2009, Friedlander and Wubbena caused the submission of false claims to Medicare for reimbursement for services that had not been performed. Additionally during that time, Friedlander and Wubbena caused to be submitted false claims for Medicare reimbursement for office visits that were coded at the highest degree of complication requiring detailed interface with the treating physician when in fact they had not been performed or coded. As part of the scheme, Doctor Friedlander and Wubbena entered and caused to be entered false information in patient files to create false documentation to support the claims submitted to Medicare.
Wubbena previously had pleaded guilty in a separate but related case as an organizer and leader of an Oxycodone trafficking conspiracy. He was sentenced on August 26, 2010, to serve 10 years in federal prison. The sentences in both cases were ordered to be served concurrently. According to court documents, Wubbena illegally had distributed Oxycodone by obtaining blank prescription forms pre-signed by Dr. Friedlander. Wubbena and others had filled out the prescriptions for Oxycodone in the names of purported patients (often without their knowledge or participation) and caused them to be filled at pharmacies throughout the Middle District of Florida. He and others then caused the Oxycodone obtained to be illegally sold and distributed on the streets.
This case was investigated by the United States Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Inspector General; the United States Marshals Service; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Florida Department of Law Enforcement; the Florida Department of Health; the Florida Office of the Attorney General Medicaid Fraud Control Unit; the Florida Division of Fraud; and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Kathy J.M. Peluso and Josie Thomas.