Doctor sentenced for Medicare fraud

6:53 AM, Feb 21, 2014   |    comments
(AP file)
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ROSWELL, Ga. -- An Atlanta doctor has been sentenced to 50 months in prison for defrauding Medicare and the IRS.

Lawrence Eppelbaum, 54, of Roswell must also pay a $3.5 million fine after being convicted of 27 counts of healthcare fraud, tax fraud and money laundering.

Eppelbaum operated the Atlanta Institute of Medicine and Rehabilitation (AIMR) and the Pain Clinic of AIMR. In 2004, he created a program called the Back Pain Fund, which transported patients between his Buckhead clinic and a hot spring in Florida. Despite labeling the fund a charity, Eppelbaum paid the vast majority of its operating expenses.

According to information presented in federal court, Eppelbaum entered into an arrangement with the Torah Day School in northeast Atlanta, where the parents of students would make their tuition checks payable to the Back Pain Fund instead of the school. In return, Eppelbaum repaid the school for the amount of the tuition plus 25 percent.

The defendant also wrote off as charitable donations the payments he made to the Back Pain Fund, the Torah Day School and other organizations, even though he netted quite a bit of personal income for treating patients through the fund. Prosecutors estimated Eppelbaum evaded about $1 million in federal income taxes between 2006 and 2008. He also received approximately $16 million from Medicare for the patients he treated between 2004 and 2009.

"Those who swindle and deceive the Medicare program should expect to pay dearly for their crimes," Derrick L. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta region's Office of the Inspector General, said in a release. "Having been outsmarted by federal law enforcement, Eppelbaum was aggressively prosecuted and will now do years of hard time."

Eppelbaum was convicted in June 2013 after a two-week trial.

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