[Story updated November 2017] Chiropractic care has been become a very competitive field. Most chiropractors compete by trying to offer the best quality care possible. And then there is Devin Thauberger of Louisville. Not satisfied with the money he was making from his practice, Thauberger decided to dabble in Medicare fraud. He billed Medicare and private insurance companies for services that were never performed.
If that was the end of the story, it would be bad but our “doc” made a terrible situation worse.
In March 2016, Devin Thauberger, age 46, pleaded guilty to defrauding Medicare, Anthem, Humana and many other insurance companies. He also pleaded guilty to obstruction and witness tampering charges. Medicare fraud alone can put you in prison for a decade but witness tampering will almost always earn you a stiff sentence. (Because he pleaded guilty and admitted responsibility, the government recommended 41 months but the court can impose a harsher sentence.)
Like many healthcare fraud cases, prosecutors say that Dr. Thauberger billed for services that were never performed. In his case, however, prosecutors claim he wasn’t in the United States when some of the services were “performed”.
What makes this case crazy is what Devin Thauberger did after he was charged and released on bond. The superseding indictment says that after his release, he instructed an employee to alter patient records to make it appear that services were rendered. Unfortunately, that behavior also resulted in his billing clerk, Trisha Muir, being charged. She pleaded guilty last September and cooperated. Instead of becoming a whistleblower she is now a convicted felon and may face prison herself.
Thauberger wasn’t satisfied with merely doctoring records, however. Prosecutors say he contacted one of the witnesses in the case and “did knowingly attempt to intimidate, threaten or corruptly” influence that witness’ testimony.
In a shocking development, Thauberger asked that he be released from custody pending his sentencing. Once convicted, a court can release a defendant before sentencing but only upon a finding that the person is not a danger to the community. Having found that Thauberger went to a witness’ home and attempted to intimidate the witness, U.S. District Court Greg Stivers denied his request to be released from custody.
While first writing this story in March of 2016, we had just learned from the court that Thauberger filed yet another request to be released. It isn’t likely to happen and may just backfire at sentencing. In our humble opinion, repeatedly demanding to be released from prison does not demonstrate acceptance of responsibility.
Thauberger will likely remain in prison for several years. We are most concerned about his former billing clerk, Trisha Muir, however. Instead of stepping forward and reporting the conduct, today she is a convicted felon facing three years in prison. For her cooperation, the government is recommending the court impose a lower sentence but the felony conviction will follow her for life. She also must pay back $137,000 even though she never received that much money!
We often see cases where billing clerks and others within a medical practice feel pressured or bullied to go along with the fraud. In our experience, coming forward early in the case usually means no criminal prosecution and often means a large cash award.
Devin Thauberger Sentenced, Appeals
In June 2016, Devin Thauberger was sentenced to 41 months in prison and must also pay restitution of $96,079.28. The sentence was previously outlined in a plea agreement so there should have been no surprises to anyone. Yet after receiving the sentence, Dr. Thauberger filed a motion seeking to vacate his sentence.
He now claims that his lawyer never told him that he would likely be deported if convicted (Thauberger is not a U.S. citizen) and never told him that he might have received a lower sentence if he cooperated with prosecutors in other cases. Once again, we are quite skeptical of his claims.
The government recently responded to the motion and says that Thauberger met with both his lawyer and two federal agents when asked to cooperate. That suggests that his bid to be freed from prison won’t go anywhere. In the unlikely event that his sentence and plea were vacated, there is a very real possibility that he could face a much longer sentence. In our opinion, Devin Thauberger should be careful of what he asks for!
Medicare Fraud – Cash Awards vs. Prison
Cash award? Under the federal False Claims Act, healthcare workers that report Medicare fraud are eligible for an award of 15% to 30% of whatever the government collects from wrongdoers. There won’t be an award in this case, obviously. Most Medicare fraud claims are resolved civilly and often with big awards. (Our False Claims Act whistleblower clients have received over $100 million in award monies.)
If you are asked to do something illegal, consider doing the opposite. Consider becoming a whistleblower. Even if you are not interested in saving taxpayer dollars or earning an award, it is a good way to save your own skin. Trisha Muir made a choice and it didn’t work. Not only is she facing prison but she must also contribute her hard earned money to pay off her former boss’ debts. The worst of all worlds.
If you see Medicare fraud, report it. Call us and we can help you earn an award and stop the fraud. Worried about your involvement in the activity? Call us right away. Chances are good that we can protect you from prosecution.
Need more information? Contact attorney Brian Mahany at or by telephone at (414) 704-6731. All inquiries protected by the attorney – client privilege and kept strictly confidential. See also our constantly updated Medicare fraud and Chiropractors information page. It contains detailed examples of common Medicare fraud schemes involving chiropractors.
MahanyLaw – America’s Medicare Fraud Lawyers