Lakeland Doctor Pleads Guilty To Healthcare Fraud
Tampa, FL – United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces that James F. Pruchniewski, (66, Lakeland) today pleaded guilty to one count of healthcare fraud. Dr. Purchniewski faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
According to the plea agreement, Dr. James F. Pruchniewski was a podiatrist licensed to practice in the State of Florida and owned and operated the North Lakeland Foot Clinic, in the Middle District of Florida. In his practice, Dr. Pruchniewski did not employ a physical therapist, licensed nurse or any physician other than himself. His clinic treated patients with something called “micro-vas therapy.” Micro-vas, also known as MVT, involved rendering electrical impulses to patients’ muscles, primarily in their legs, to supposedly stimulate circulation and healing. When Medicare beneficiaries received this treatment at Pruchniewski’s clinic, patients were escorted by a clinic employee to a room with four reclining chairs, televisions, magazine and newspapers.
A clinic employee, who was not a licensed physical therapist, positioned the patient in a recliner, applied pads and attached wire leads to each, turned on the electric current, and adjusted the dial for pain tolerance. Dr. Pruchniewski generally had no contact with the patients during the treatments. He did not hook up the patients to the micro-vas machine, did not discuss the therapy with patients, did not monitor the patients during therapy, and did not disconnect the patients from the machine. At the conclusion of each therapy session, the unlicensed clinic employee filled out a micro-vas therapy form, which Pruchniewski reviewed and signed at the end of the day.
Pruchniewski directed that Medicare be billed for false claims for the use of micro-vas therapy. All of the micro-vas therapy claims to Medicare were fraudulent because: (a) micro-vas is not a covered service by Medicare; (b) micro-vas therapy was inaccurately coded as physical therapy; and/or, (c) as coded, the services required the doctor to perform the procedures, which Dr. Pruchniewski did not. The total intended loss to Medicare exceeds $400,000 and the actual loss from claims made and paid under the CPT code used by Dr. Pruchniewski to bill for micro-vas therapy is $58,025.74.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mandy Riedel.