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TBI confiscates records of Appalachian Medical Center

REX BARBER • Mar 16, 2007 at 12:03 PM

JOHNSON CITY - The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation confiscated the records of a local clinic Thursday after receiving allegations of medical insurance fraud and drug overdoses possibly resulting in patient deaths.

According to Jennifer Johnson, public information officer for the TBI, agents with the bureau's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, along with Johnson City police officers, arrived at Appalachian Medical Center, 100 W. Springbrook Drive, Thursday morning as part of an ongoing investigation.

Johnson did not know how many of the clinic's patients had died from drug overdoses. She did not say what drugs were the cause of the patient deaths or if those drugs were obtained by prescription from the clinic.

"There were several individuals who went to that clinic who died of an overdose, and they are taking a look to see if there is any correlation there," Johnson said of the investigation.

Agents executed a search warrant at 9 a.m., finishing up with record collection by 2 p.m.

The clinic apparently closed for the day when investigators arrived. No one from the clinic was answering phones.

TBI agents were looking for records, files and other data stored on paper and in electronic form, all items specified in the warrant.

"We would be looking obviously for any evidence that would substantiate the allegations we have received," Johnson said.

No one has been charged with any crime at this point, Johnson said. She also said the investigation at this point is not targeting any one individual.

District Attorney General Tony Clark said he was notified of the investigation, which involved surveillance and undercover work.

"The bottom line of the investigation was to see if there was TennCare fraud, Medicare fraud, Medicaid fraud," Clark said.

He said the investigation also involves several insurance companies and the number of prescriptions written over the past two years.

He said most investigations into medical fraud are based on comparing statistical information from similar facilities across the state.

Appalachian Medical Center was reportedly prescribing more than the average.

"They were quite a bit above the state average in particular drugs," Clark said, citing Percocet, Lortab, OxyContin and others.

Clark reiterated Johnson's comments, saying no one had been charged, and the clinic is still open for business. Clark said the patient deaths may be in no way related to the clinic, and charges may not be filed at all.

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