A Philadelphia-area doctor has been sentenced to three years in jail for his role in what prosecutors described as a complex set of schemes that cheated insurance companies, generated kickbacks, and made struggling drug abusers vehicles for profit. Earlier this year, the Pennsylvania Attorney General announced that 11 individuals had been taken into custody and were facing state and federal felony charges as the result of an investigation into Liberation Way, a company which ran for-profit addiction treatment centers in Montgomery and Bucks counties. These individuals included Jason Gerner, the co-founder, and Michael Armstrong, who was in charge of marketing.
In announcing the charges, PA AG Shapiro detailed the elaborate scheme, which involved sending clients’ urine to testing labs in Florida and housing clients at sober-living homes associated with Liberation Way. In doing so, Liberation Way appeared as though it was offering inpatient treatment even though it had no license to do so.
One of the most distressing parts of the report was how the company used clients it was “caring for” as part of the scheme; it would use shuttles to run clients back and forth from their sober homes to the treatment centers, and back, each day, in order to perpetuate the ruse of running an inpatient treatment center. Meanwhile, at the sober-living homes, residents openly used controlled substances, earning the premises the reputation of being a “party house” where, in addition to the drug use, Liberation Way employees had sex with clients.
At the press conference announcing the charges, the First Assistant U.S. Attorney of Pennsylvania’s Eastern District described how Liberation Way co-founders Gerner and Dallas Fetterman viewed the opioid crisis as “an opportunity to exploit the vulnerable and the desperate.” Fetterman was not named in the indictment as he died of a drug overdose in 2017. A grand jury investigation revealed Liberation Way grew to a $40 million enterprise in under three years, with billings to various insurance companies that exceeded $100 million.
Last Friday, Dr. Domenick Braccia was sentenced for his role in the scheme. Following the grand jury investigation, he had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud. As the “medical director” at three of Liberation Way’s locations in Pennsylvania, he admitted to signing blank prescription forms and patient orders, vouching for the medical necessity of testing for patients he never treated, and writing prescriptions for patients he never saw.
Braccia was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison, 150 hours of community service, and restitution of slightly less than $2.5 million.