Cleveland, Tenn., doctor admits $7.5 million Medicare fraud

photo Botox

Dr. Raymond "Sean" Brown of Cleveland, Tenn., signed a plea agreement Friday acknowledging that he fraudulently billed Medicare nearly $7.5 million, yet his attorney argues that Brown shouldn't lose his medical license.

Brown, 44, a physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor, billed Medicare for 17,766 vials of Botox between 2008 and 2012, though he purchased only 254 vials of non-FDA-approved Botox during that time, William Killian, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, said in a written statement.

Brown was charged in May 2013 in a 35-count indictment alleging that he committed crimes involving wire fraud, mail fraud, health care fraud and money laundering. In October 2013, Brown pleaded not guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Lee.

However, on Friday, Brown withdrew his innocent plea and signed a plea agreement saying that he misbranded drugs with the intent to defraud Medicare.

The Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners subsequently sent Brown a letter asking him to surrender his medical license by Nov. 28, according to Jerry Summers, Brown's attorney.

Shelly Walker, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health, which works closely with the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners, said state laws and board rules do not exist to prompt action against a doctor accused of a crime, but board members have the authority to review any case without conviction and take disciplinary action if they determine it is needed.

Summers said he and his client believe it is in the best interest of Brown's patients for him to not to give up his medical license. Summers said an appeal is planned if the Board of Medical Examiners takes action to restrict Brown's ability to practice.

Summers argued that Brown did not make a medical mistake or risk a patient's well-being. Summers said the doctor diluted the amount of Botox he gave to his patients based on their needs. His mistake was that he charged Medicare for the full amount of Botox, Summers said.

Brown did not use Botox that could put anyone in danger, Summers said, but the non-FDA approved Botox was the result of a misunderstanding, as Brown originally ordered Botox from one company, then switched to a different one in Canada.

"(Brown) did not mean to jeopardize treatments for his patients," Summers said. "He is an excellent doctor and treats a lot of people no one will treat."

Botox is best-known for its use in cosmetic surgery, but can be prescribed for things such as stroke and neurological rehabilitation and as a treatment for muscle spasms.

Brown's plea agreement must be approved in U.S. District Court, Summers said. He anticipates that will happen at Brown's sentencing on March 5 in Chattanooga.

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Brown faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, or twice the amount of the gross pecuniary gain, and a supervised release of one year.

As a part of the plea agreement, Brown forfeited his interest in $186,091 in a Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union account and $6,579,517 in an Athens Federal Credit Union account. He also agreed to pay a monetary judgment in the amount of $717,359.08, according to Killian's office.

"To the credit of the federal government they are very tough on Medicare fraud," Summers said. "But (Brown) is not a quack doctor. He is a good doctor."

Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at [email protected] or at 423-757-6592.