PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Branden Coluccio, 32, of Doylestown, PA entered a guilty plea to a one-count Information, charging him with conspiracy to commit health care fraud. The charges against the defendant stem from federal and state investigations into elaborate insurance fraud schemes involving a Bucks and Montgomery County-based addiction treatment center, Liberation Way.
The investigations exposed an array of health care fraud schemes committed by individuals associated with Liberation Way, including an over-billing scheme connected with the facility’s medical director, as well as an elaborate kick-back scheme involving thousands of medically-unnecessary urine tests which were sent to Florida-based laboratories for analysis. Coluccio, a co-founder of Liberation Way, participated in yet another scheme by fraudulently purchasing premium insurance policies for prospective patients on their behalf, which then allowed Liberation Way to bill insurance companies for expensive “treatment” purportedly provided to these patients. Liberation Way represented that the patients were buying and paying for these policies themselves, when in reality Liberation Way was paying the premiums, which is illegal.
The defendant pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Wendy Beetlestone today, pursuant to a plea agreement which recommends that the Court impose a 37-month sentence. The agreement also requires payment of over $3 million in restitution, as well as additional forfeiture, by the time of sentencing. Sentencing is scheduled for May 22, 2020.
This case was investigated in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, and is the fifth federal Information that has been filed against defendants associated with Liberation Way. The four other defendants -- Dr. Dominick Braccia, Dr. Ramesh Sarvaiya, Jesse Peters, and Jason Gerner – have all pleaded guilty. The latter three have yet to be sentenced. Dr. Braccia was sentenced by Judge Beetlestone in September 2019 to a term of 37 months in prison.
“Liberation Way was essentially a front for several multi-layered, years-long schemes that crossed state lines and victimized hundreds of people who needed help,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “The convictions coming out of this case send a clear message to those attempting to profit from fraud and the despair of individuals battling addiction: if you behave in this manner, you will be held accountable. We have been proud to work with the Office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General and our federal agency partners to bring all of the defendants in this case to justice.”
“The defendant took advantage of vulnerable people and their families for profit,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “I’m proud of the hard work done by The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Office of Attorney General to hold these individuals accountable.”
“Coluccio defrauded insurance programs for millions of dollars and he used vulnerable patients seeking help for their addictions to do it,” said Tara A. McMahon, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “Health care fraud isn’t some quick and easy way to bulk up your bank account. It’s a costly, consequential federal crime and a high priority for the FBI.”
“Coluccio admitted to defrauding federal health care programs and compounded his crime by seizing on the plight of drug-addicted patients,” said Maureen R. Dixon, Special Agent in Charge, of the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “We will continue to work with our State and Federal law enforcement partners to protect the integrity of all HHS Programs.”
The case was investigated by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Personnel Management, and the Department of Labor. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Nancy Beam Winter and Special Assistant United States Attorneys Kristy Christ and Robert Labar, both of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office.