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SC health clinic co-owner charged with bilking the government

Court stock

A federal probe into a health care billing scheme has widened. File

A co-owner of a shuttered chiropractic and physical rehabilitation clinic that was implicated in a billing scandal last month is facing federal charges along with a former business partner.

A grand jury in Charleston charged Deeana Burr this week with health care fraud and participating in a conspiracy that charged the government-run Medicare and Tricare insurance programs for services and equipment that were either medically unreasonable or unnecessary.

The alleged activity at Atlantic Coast Integrated Medicine took place over two-and-a-half years, ending in January 2020, according to the indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Charleston on July 13.

Burr is a licensed nurse practitioner who went to work for the company as a supervising clinician in its Summerville office on Trolley Road about six years ago. In September 2017, she paid $100,000 for a 15 percent ownership stake in the business, which opened a Mount Pleasant location the next year, according to a court document. 

Burr is the second of three co-conspirators that federal prosecutors have said were part of the scheme.

Heather A. Lambert, founder and chief executive of the company, agreed to plead guilty in June to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. The charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Lambert, a chiropractor, also must repay more than $279,000 after admitting to overbilling the tax-funded health care programs. She is scheduled to appear in court next week to formally change her plea.

In Burr's indictment, the government flagged 16 claims totaling almost $13,000.

Prosecutors said she and the other co-conspirators were warned by staffers that the services and equipment they were charging to Medicare and Tricare were unnecessary.

In one example, the practice had a standardized treatment plan for all patients, regardless of their condition, that called for three weekly visits over four months. It also required unneeded services such as more than a dozen X-rays and diagnostic tests while billing the government programs for unnecessary medical equipment.

In addition, the company would seek payments from the federal programs for teaching patients how to use the equipment. In some cases, the patients never received the equipment or the training, according to the government.

Prosecutors have said the third co-conspirator was a billing supervisor whose identity has not been disclosed.

According to a breach-of-contract lawsuit she filed two years ago, Burr said she was co-owner of Atlantic Coast Integrative Medicine, a slight variation from the name in the indictment. The business included a sister company, Atlantic Coast Physical Medicine.

Burr said in her complaint that agents from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services showed up at the office in May 2019, and that she raised concerns afterward with her partners, including Lambert, about the "seriousness" of the visit. She said she was fired seven months later.

Her lawsuit was dismissed in late 2020, after Burr and her former partners reached a settlement. Terms weren't disclosed.

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Contact John McDermott at 843-937-5572 or follow him on Twitter at @byjohnmcdermott