GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. (WZZM) - A former state lawmaker who pleaded guilty to health care fraud “considered himself beyond all reproach as a physician,’’ federal prosecutors said in asking that he be sentenced like any other person convicted of "serious health care fraud.''
Dr. Paul Nathan DeWeese, who ran pain clinics across Michigan, pleaded guilty in May to health care fraud for injections given by nurse practitioners in Grand Rapids and Flint.
A federal judge on Monday placed DeWeese on probation for three years and ordered that he pay a $5,000 fine.
The former Republican lawmaker from Holt faced up to five years in prison for making false statements relating to health care matters.
DeWeese apologized for his actions in a 10-page letter to U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Jonker.
"I am deeply ashamed of my conduct and accept responsibility for it,'' DeWeese wrote. "No matter the result I will continue to try my best, limited by my short-comings but seasoned by the crucial lessons of the past year 'to repair the world.'''
In a sentencing memorandum, federal prosecutors describe DeWeese as a “complex defendant’’ whose “benevolent intentions play conflicting roles in his life.’’
“Dr. DeWeese also relied on his intended benevolence, however, to justify the manner in which he ignored professional standards, dismissed a multitude of warnings about his medical practices and engaged in criminal fraud,’’ assistant U.S. Attorney Adam B. Townshend wrote in a sentencing memorandum.
“The health care system is only as principled as its participants,’’ Townshend wrote. “When fraud schemes involve false documents, they become almost impossible to uncover and stop.’’
DeWeese admitted to bilking Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan out of nearly $173,000 between 2012 and 2014. As part of a plea deal worked out with federal prosecutors, DeWeese agreed to pay restitution to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
DeWeese owned and operated NBO Medical, which ran pain clinics in several Michigan cities, including Grand Rapids, Brighton, Flint and Lansing. Clinics in Flint and Grand Rapids were run by nurse practitioners.
Patients were given injections to treat nerve pain, but Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan only provided payment for shots given by doctors.
DeWeese sidestepped the requirement and falsified documents in order to receive payments from the insurance giant, federal investigators said.
Deweese for nearly two years “directed a document fraud’’ that included falsifying patient records to say he provided supervision over medical procedures performed at clinics in Grand Rapids and Flint, Townshend wrote in court documents.
An administrative assistant forged his signature on patient documents and also recruited his son to falsify signatures, federal prosecutors said.
By using electronic medical records and moving the fraud out-of-state, DeWeese ensured the false signatures would be “almost impossible to detect in Michigan’’ and private insurance reimbursements would continue.
His “professional obstinance and willingness to falsify medical records continued as he transitioned his practice to pain management and addiction treatment,’’ Townshend wrote.
DeWeese served as a Republican state representative from 1998 to 2003. DeWeese had his medical license suspended last year shortly after the FBI accused him of prescribing powerful drugs to recovering addicts with little oversight.
Federal investigators said he wrote prescriptions out of his car and that some of his patients drove from the Upper Peninsula to Lansing for a prescription. They also claimed DeWeese allowed some patients to stay at his house and run errands for him while he wrote them prescriptions.
The state launched an investigation in 2014 after receiving a complaint that DeWeese was writing a prescription in a Muskegon parking lot for a convicted drug dealer.
DeWeese in August, 2015 called accusations that he wrote illegitimate prescriptions for patients he allowed to stay at his home “absolutely, categorically false.”
(© 2016 WZZM)