News and Press Releases

Atlanta Doctor Sentenced for Defrauding Medicare and IRS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 20, 2014

ATLANTA – Lawrence Eppelbaum has been sentenced to 50 months in prison and fined $3.5 million following his trial conviction on health care fraud, tax fraud and money laundering charges.

“Our Medicare system is premised on the ability of patients to make a choice about their doctor and their treatment without undue interference, and our tax system is based on each taxpayer paying his or her fair share,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates.  “The defendant cheated both systems by illegally enticing his patients with gifts and then evading paying taxes on the substantial income he earned from treating those patients.  His choice to practice fraud along with medicine has earned him substantial time in federal prison.”

“Those who swindle and deceive the Medicare program should expect to pay dearly for their crimes,” said Derrick L. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge of the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Atlanta Region.  “Having been outsmarted by federal law enforcement, Eppelbaum was aggressively prosecuted and will now do years of hard time.” 

Ricky Maxwell, Acting Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, stated: “Today’s sentencing of Dr. Eppelbaum should serve as a reminder to others considering similar such fraudulent and criminal activities targeting our publicly funded health care programs that federal agencies, including the FBI, are prepared to investigate them and hold them accountable for those criminal actions.”

“In addition to abusing the Medicare system, Eppelbaum committed tax fraud by claiming contributions to charitable organizations that he did not make,” stated Veronica F. Hyman-Pillot, Special Agent in Charge with IRS Criminal Investigation.  “The sentence announced today reinforces the commitment by law enforcement and the United States Attorney’s Office that individuals who steal from the government will be held accountable.”

According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: Eppelbaum is a physician who is licensed to practice medicine in Georgia and operates the “Atlanta Institute of Medicine and Rehabilitation” (“AIMR”) and the “Pain Clinic of AIMR” in Atlanta.  In 2004, Eppelbaum created the “Back Pain Fund,” a purported charitable organization that he controlled both directly and indirectly.  Eppelbaum, through the Back Pain Fund, paid for Medicare patients to travel to Atlanta to receive medical treatment from his practice, then travel to Florida to visit a local hot spring for approximately four days, before returning to Atlanta to receive additional treatment. 

Eppelbaum was the primary donor to the Back Pain Fund and paid the vast majority of its operating expenses.  Eppelbaum tried to disguise his financial control over the Back Pain Fund by entering into an arrangement with the Torah Day School, a Jewish Day School in Atlanta, whereby the parents of students attending the Torah Day School were instructed to make their tuition checks payable to the Back Pain Fund instead of to the school, and in turn, Eppelbaum repaid the Torah Day School for the amount of the tuition, plus an additional 25 percent.  Eppelbaum entered into similar arrangements with other organizations, and even caused patients who were treated at his medical practice to make their checks payable to the Back Pain Fund.  Between 2004 and 2009, Eppelbaum treated hundreds of Back Pain Fund patients and received approximately $16 million for their treatment from Medicare.

Eppelbaum also utilized the Back Pain Fund as a vehicle for committing tax fraud.  Between 2006 through 2008, Eppelbaum deducted as charitable donations all the payments he made to the Back Pain Fund, the Torah Day School, and other organizations with which he had a financial arrangement, even though Eppelbaum derived substantial personal income from treating Back Pain Fund patients.  Eppelbaum evaded approximately $1 million in federal income taxes through his scheme.  

Eppelbaum, 54, of Roswell, Georgia, was sentenced by United States District Judge Amy Totenberg.  He was charged with 27 counts of healthcare fraud, tax fraud and money laundering. Following a two-week trial in June 2013, the jury found him guilty of all 27 counts. 

This case was investigated by Special Agents of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation.

Assistant United States Attorneys Steven D. Grimberg and Stephen H. McClain prosecuted the case.

            For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the home page for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.justice.gov/usao/gan.

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