If you drive about an hour southeast of Baton Rouge, you will arrive in Metairie. A 37-year-old chiropractor who owned and operated his practice there has been accused of defrauding a health care benefit program by submitting claims for chiropractic services that weren’t actually provided.
The Department of Justice says it has charged Benjamin Tekippe with health care fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Accused of lying, too
Federal prosecutors also allege that in July of last year, Tekippe made a “materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statement” to FBI agents and other investigators.
In addition, they claim the chiropractor used his clients’ insurance identification numbers without their permission to bill for services he hadn’t provided.
If he’s convicted of the health care fraud charge, Tekippe faces up to 10 years in federal prison and up to 3 years of supervised release. He also faces up to 2 years if convicted of aggravated ID theft (that sentence would run consecutive to any other sentence) and if convicted of lying to investigators, he faces a possible maximum sentence of 5 years, with up to 3 years of supervised release.
He can also be fined up to $250,000 for each offense.
Louisiana doctor also charged
If you drive a few miles north of Metairie, across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway (the longest continuous bridge over water in the world), you’ll arrive in Slidell, where another health care professional also faces serious criminal charges.
Dr. Adrian Dexter Talbot has been indicted for his role in distributing what prosecutors claim was more than one million doses of controlled substances that included oxycodone and morphine.
He’s also been charged with defrauding Medicare, Medicaid and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana of more than $5 million.
Cash for prescriptions?
Prosecutors claim that Talbot owned and operated a Slidell medical clinic that accepted cash in exchange for opioid prescriptions.
They also allege that the scheme continued even after Talbot took a full-time position in Pineville, more than 250 miles northwest of Slidell, back in 2015.
Even though he was no longer physically in Slidell, Talbot allegedly left pre-signed prescriptions that were given to clinic customers, though he didn’t see or examine them.
In 2016, he allegedly hired another physician for the Slidell clinic, who also pre-signed prescriptions.
Prosecutors say clinic customers then used their insurance benefits to fill the prescriptions, thereby defrauding the insurers.
What the future could hold
If convicted of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, Talbot could be sentenced to serve up to 10 years in federal prison. He faces 20 years for each conviction on the other charges: conspiracy to unlawfully distribute and dispense controlled substances, maintaining drug-involved premises and four counts of unlawfully distributing and dispensing controlled substances.
Tacked to the end of the notices announcing the arrests, the DOJ included this reminder: “An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.”
That’s exactly right. The doctor and chiropractor have been accused, not convicted. They are each entitled to choose attorneys to present defenses in court or to negotiate terms of sentence reductions in plea deals.