by: Jodie Fleischer Updated:NORCROSS, Ga. —
A Channel 2 Action News investigation uncovered allegations of insurance fraud at a local drug rehab. Now, our story about one patient has grown to include four dozen families and millions of dollars.
Search warrants used to raid Narconon's Norcross headquarters last month outline what investigators found since Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer brought them the case in January.
"They are preying on the most vulnerable of people," said Mary Morton, whose daughter, Emily, enrolled in the Georgia program last year
Morton contacted Channel 2 after noticing insurance claims, even for days Emily wasn't at Narconon. Plus, Mary had already paid for the whole program.
"It was ridiculous, they billed $58,000 for doctor visits that she never saw a doctor," she said.
Morton is hopeful her family's case could be the one to bring Narconon of Georgia down.
State insurance fraud investigators hauled away nearly two dozen hard drives and laptops, and boxes of financial and medical records on April 26.
According to the search warrant: two insurance companies, United HealthCare and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia, reported 847 claims filed by Narconon since 2009. For 48 patients, Narconon billed nearly $2,990,629. More than a million of it was actually paid.
Medical records obtained from both insurance companies show treatment paperwork signed by either a registered nurse or licensed practical nurse, but the signatures were illegible.
"The insurance case basically involves services that were not provided, and also services that were supposedly authorized by doctors who did not authorize them," said Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter.
The search warrant said investigators also interviewed doctors Lisa Robbins and Casey Locarnini.
As Fleischer reported in January, each said they did not oversee any actual drug treatment, and only “performed physicals” on new patients to make sure they could handle hours each day in a sauna, the cornerstone of the Narconon program.
Records show Robbins and Locarnini each previously served as medical director for the program, but both told investigators they had never even visited the Narconon facility, nor had they authorized their provider ID numbers to be used for insurance billing purposes.
The search warrant noted the bills were for “services such as room and board and partial hospitalization," even though Narconon is only licensed as an outpatient facility by the state of Georgia.
Last fall, Fleischer first exposed Narconon for advertising itself as a residential facility. The state Department of Community Health has since taken steps to revoke the program's license.
"Not one more person needs to be checked in there, not today not tonight not tomorrow. It needs to stop now," said Mary Morton.
In a statement, a spokesman said Narconon is aware of the investigation and “follows customary and professional billing practices and procedures.”
Porter said it could take months for investigators to comb through all of the evidence seized from the search warrants.