Lubbock massage therapist sentenced to 6.5 years in prison - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

7/2/10

Lubbock massage therapist sentenced to 6.5 years in prison

LUBBOCK, TX (Press Release) - A Lubbock massage therapist is sentenced to 6.5 years in a health care fraud case and ordered to pay $1.6 million in restitution.

Kawai Ary-Berry, 38, of Lubbock, Texas, was sentenced Friday morning by U.S. District Judge Sam R. Cummings to serve 78 months in federal prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $1.6 million in restitution.

In early April 2010, a federal jury found Kawai Ary-Berry, a licensed massage therapist, guilty on all 10 counts of an indictment charging offenses related to a health care fraud scheme she ran. She is presently in federal custody.

Specifically, Ary-Berry was convicted on one count of making a false statement involving a health care matter and nine counts of health care fraud. Although Ary-Berry was a licensed massage therapist, she enrolled in the federal worker's compensation program to provide therapy to injured workers as a physical therapist. Over the course of four years, she billed the federal government's worker's compensation program using physical therapy and other billing codes, purporting to have provided physical therapy and other services to three patients.

Evidence presented during trial showed that on some dates, Ary-Berry billed in excess of 24 hours for services that were not rendered, and on other dates, billed for services provided during periods when she was out of town. The evidence also showed that Ary-Berry continued billing for two patients after they had discontinued their treatment with her. In addition, Ary-Berry provided two of her patients with hot tubs and one of her patients a dry sauna, all of which were billed to the government program as "rentals," using codes for a physician office visits and educational materials. Witnesses from the federal Office of Worker's Compensation Programs, as well as the three former patients, provided testimony against Ary-Berry.

Federal authorities began investigating the case in early 2008, when they received a referral from a nurse examiner employed by the federal government who believed the claims coming in from Ary-Berry appeared excessive. Federal agents began an intensive review of Ary-Berry's billing records and conducted surveillance on her office. The agents discovered that the federal government had been billed for services on days when no patients were seen coming or going from Ary-Berry's business, PTMT The Pain Relief Center, located on 50th Street in Lubbock.

On April 29, 2008, federal agents executed search warrants on PTMT The Pain Relief Center and on Ary-Berry's residence, located in a rural area between Lubbock and New Deal, Texas. Officers found evidence that Ary-Berry had completed and mailed billing forms before services had been rendered and found evidence that she was billing the dry sauna and hot tubs to the government using codes that disguised the true nature of the goods being provided.

* NOTE: Prosecutors released a corrected statement Friday afternoon concerning the length of  Ary-Berry's sentence.

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