BusinessWeek, October 7, 2011
A coalition of community mental- health clinics followed a playbook used by interest groups seeking U.S. government money: They created a trade association, doled out campaign contributions, and hired a former senator and Medicare administrator to lobby in Washington. The difference in this case is that some members of the association dedicated to fighting Medicare reimbursement cuts were stealing government money at the same time they were trying to keep it flowing, according to prosecutors. Lawrence Duran, a former board member of the trade group and an owner of Miami-based American Therapeutic Corp., a chain of seven clinics, was sentenced to 50 years in prison last month for orchestrating a $205 million Medicare fraud. Other unnamed association members "have been indicted or are under investigation," according to a Sept. 9 Justice Department court filing in the Duran case. Prosecutors announced a Medicare fraud indictment against Biscayne Milieu Health Center Inc. in Miami, also an association member, and its owner two days earlier. What unfolded in the case shows how Duran, and possibly others involved in fraud, took on the trappings of legitimate political players to gain access to lawmakers and influence national policy.