'Office visits' cost doctor $358,000 Pikesville internist, who had license revoked, admits to Medicaid fraud.

June 25, 1991|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Evening Sun Staff

A 43-year-old Pikesville internist who prosecutors said traded drugs for sex in his office, and who later had his medical license revoked, has been ordered to pay $358,000 in fines, restitution and costs for bilking Medicaid for the "office visits," the state attorney's general office said.

The fine is the largest amount a single doctor has agreed to pay the Maryland Medical Assistance Program in the 12-year history of the attorney general's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, prosecutors said.

Dr. Arthur Lebson, of the 7900 block of Stevenson Road, whose internal and geriatrics practice on Fords Lane had generated as much as $1 million in annual revenues, provided drug abusers with sleeping pills, tranquilizers and other drugs for sexual favors, the attorney general's office said.

According to prosecutors, Lebson billed Medicaid for "office visits" that were actually sex-for-drugs sessions.

Yesterday, in Baltimore Circuit Court, Lebson pleaded guilty to three counts of Medicaid fraud.

City Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Lavon Johnson imposed a $10,000 fine and sentenced him to the maximum of 15 years, then suspended all but nine months. He is to serve the nine months in monitored home detention.

Johnson also ordered Lebson to perform 2,500 hours of community service and remain on probation for five years. He'll be released from the City Jail this week to begin home detention, where he'll be monitored by an electronic bracelet, said Gale R. Caplan, chief of the fraud unit.

"He told the court he regretted any hurt he may have caused his family," Caplan said.

In addition, the judge ordered Lebson to pay $342,000 in restitution. This represents three times the $58,000 in fees for office visits and laboratory tests he billed Medicaid, plus $167,000 for the cost to Medicaid of the prescription drugs, prosecutors said.

Lebson also reimbursed the state more than $5,000 for investigative costs.

Of 20 women who testified about sexual overtures, 11 with histories of drug abuse told investigators that they performed actual sexual acts during their visits in exchange for prescriptions and samples of Demerol, Xanax and other drugs, Caplan said.

One patient, believed to have introduced the doctor to three other patients, visited him for 10 years and received large doses of drugs in return for sex, prosecutors said.

Others learned of his operation in other ways, prosecutors said.

"The word just got out that here was somebody who'd give you what you wanted," Caplan said.

Between January 1986 and Dec. 12, 1990, Lebson received more than $550,000 in Medicaid funds for office visits, prosecutors said.

On Dec. 12 the Maryland Board of Physician Quality Assurance imposed an emergency suspension of Lebson's medical license after the Medicaid Fraud Unit alerted the board to the scam.

Curran said that under state law, the Board of Physician Quality Assurance must revoke a doctor's license if he is convicted of Medicaid fraud.

In many instances, Lebson couldn't document the prescriptions he gave or the number of pills prescribed on behalf of 90 Medicaid patients, prosecutors said. He continued to prescribe drugs and bill Medicaid even after the state's medicaid program informed him that some of the recipients were "doctor shoppers" in search of drugs, evidence showed.

In Maryland, sex between a patient and a doctor isn't a crime, but it is a moral and ethical issue, Caplan said.

"This case certainly is unique in our experiences," Caplan said. "It's not the first case we prosecuted in which women have permitted a physician to take 'liberties;' but it is to this extent."

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