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Doctor acquitted in healthcare fraud case

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 4, 2010

A former Vietnam War combat surgeon has been acquitted of healthcare fraud charges in what his lawyer said was a case of being prosecuted for working too efficiently. A federal court jury decided Monday that Wallace P. Berkowitz, MD, 67, of St. Louis, was not guilty of one count of healthcare fraud and 19 counts of making false statements. A Jan. 7 indictment alleged that in 2003-08, Berkowitz billed for procedures he had not performed, and overstated the time he spent with patients. Defense lawyer Steve Welby said Tuesday that allegations of overbilling were false. "We presented all these documents showing that he did exactly what he said he did," Welby explained. "He had to learn how to be fast. He had to learn how to be efficient and get the job done. Just because he can do it faster doesn't mean he shouldn't get paid the same as other doctors," Welby said. He noted that even a prosecution witness said, "If he does the exam, he can bill for the time." After the trial, Welby said, one juror approached and 'said that he didn't have the authority to do this, but apologized for what they were trying to do to Dr. Berkowitz.",