Thursday, April 04, 2013

Plainview Dentist Sentenced in Medicaid Scam

plainview patchState investigation results in 1-3 year sentence for Lawrence J. Bruckner, owner of Brooklyn practice.

APRIL 4, 2013 – Plainview, NY - A Plainview dentist with a practice in Brooklyn has been sentenced to 1-3 years in jail after a joint state audit revealed he had engaged in a fraudulent Medicaid practices.

Lawrence J. Bruckner, 63, of Plainview, will also have to pay some $700,000 in restitution, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced Thursday.

DiNapoli's joint investigation with Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman revealed that Bruckner's worked with five affiliated dentists who took in nearly $7 million in Medicaid payments from 2007 to 2011, at least $2.3 million of which was likely fraudulent. The practice was based largely on the illegal recruiting of Medicaid recipients and billings for services never rendered, DiNapoli's office said.

“Medicaid fraud exploits our most vulnerable citizens at taxpayer expense,” DiNapoli said. “By driving out cheaters, we can reduce burgeoning health care costs and ensure proper treatment for those in need."

Bruckner's offices, at 1155 Broadway and 1218 Remsen Ave. in Brooklyn, consisted of unsanitary examination rooms to which homeless and indigent patients were vanned or recruited off the street and paid $25 to $30 in kickbacks for “treatment” that sometimes constituted apparent malpractice, according to the audit.

All six dentists, including Bruckner, shared improper claim payments from high-volume billings for services that would be impossible to properly perform. On a single day in 2010, for example, auditors found dentist Robert Thaler was paid for 119 procedures that would have taken at least 38 hours to perform properly.

The joint investigation continues into the billings of Thaler, Allan Lebovitz, David Bruckner and Arthur Bruckner. Joseph Bruckner – Lawrence Bruckner’s son who never practiced at his father’s offices – signed blank Medicaid claim forms, drawing $471,703 in false payments for his father, investigators said. His father paid full restitution on those claims. Joseph Bruckner was not charged.

In addition, unsanitary conditions at both dental offices included dirty floors, dusty equipment, and a used glove and exposed hypodermic needle on the floor. In New York State, such neglect is considered professional misconduct.

Examples of shoddy work uncovered by auditors and investigators included:

  • Thirty-three fillings that were not medically necessary or performed on teeth that were falling out or needed to be extracted.
  • Thirteen fillings not visible on x-rays taken after the procedure and were likely not done.
  • Four fillings on teeth that the recipient did not have.

DiNapoli recommended that the Department of Health and the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General decide whether the dentists should be removed from participation in the Medicaid program and referred to the State Education Department’s Office of the Professions to review their dental licenses. The comptroller also asked the Health Department to examine whether additional recoveries of claims payments should be made.

Bruckner pleaded guilt last year in Kings County Court to two counts of Health Care Fraud and one count of Criminal Tax Fraud. Bruckner's company, Premier Dental, P.C., also pleaded guilty to one count of Grand Larceny.

Bruckner, who ran a dental office in Bushwick since 2003 and another in Canarsie since 1988, submitted hundreds of false claims to the Medicaid program. Bruckner and his company, Premier Dental, paid recruiters kickbacks to supply him and at least three other dentists with Medicaid patients at his offices, the investigators said.