On March 25, 2019, Domenick Braccia, DO, was arrested and charged with ten felony offenses in Pennsylvania for his alleged role in an insurance fraud scheme. Braccia was one of 11 individuals charged in connection with Liberation Way drug treatment centers.
Braccia has a long history of questionable behavior. He is a member of the pseudoscience group ILADS and advertises himself as “Lyme literate.”
After the felony charges, the Pennsylvania Board of Osteopathic Medicine suspended Braccia’s license to practice medicine because he may be “an immediate and clear danger to the public health and safety.”
Braccia was the subject of a law suit by a former patient, who described “unnecessary and dangerous treatment” and “a cult-like atmosphere.” The patient spent $30,000 on treatment, which destroyed her gallbladder.
Braccia was also a business partner of Patricia Kane, who preyed on ALS patients at Braccia’s Haverford Wellness Center.
Braccia was listed as “Medical Director” of Liberation Way on its application for licensure, which was granted by the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs in 2015. In 2018, the Reading Eagle found Liberation Way had the highest number of violations of 75 facilities in the three-county Berks region.
A Grand Jury alleged that “fraudulent billings and insurance claims” were submitted under Braccia’s name. Braccia took a cut of proceeds from the December 2017 sale of Liberation Way to a private equity firm.
According to a press release from the Pennsylvania Attorney General:
The Grand Jury investigation revealed a sophisticated, multi-layered scam that took advantage of vulnerable people suffering from substance use disorder to generate millions in profits. Liberation Way grew to a $40 million enterprise in under three years, with billings to various insurance companies in excess of $100 million dollars.
“The owners and operators of Liberation Way showed blatant disregard for the wellbeing of the people they were supposed to help, and for the opioid epidemic that is ravaging our communities,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
From its outset, Liberation Way specifically targeted out-of-network insurance carriers so that it could bill any amount it chose. Because Liberation Way wasn’t permitted to pay insurance premiums on patients’ behalf, employees hid the source of funds used to pay premiums using cash, pre-paid Visa gift cards, and bank accounts of two non-profit organizations established by and/or at the direction of Liberation Way’s owners.
In order to maximize profits, Liberation Way also implemented a cycle of addiction ‘treatment’ that illegally directed patients to live at company-owned, un-licensed ‘sober homes’ to increase the amount of treatment time for which it could bill insurers. Because Liberation Way was working hand-in-hand with housing providers and, in some cases, had direct ownership of the properties, it was in essence operating as an inpatient facility, for which it was not licensed.
Liberation Way operated daily shuttles from the sober homes to the treatment locations, and patients were forced to adhere to the drivers’ schedules. Patients were not free to come and go, as is typical for outpatient treatment, and they could not choose where they wanted to live. One location on Stump Road in North Wales, Montgomery County, was known as the “party house”. Patients found themselves in unsavory or even unsafe situations where the temptation to relapse was rampant. Some of the housing was co-ed, which is uncommon in the treatment industry, and it was discovered that employees were engaged in sexual relationships with patients actively receiving treatment.
The “party house” was owned by Braccia. Liberation Way paid Braccia $8,000 per month to rent the house before purchasing it for $800,000.
According to the Grand Jury Findings, Liberation Way ordered a shocking number of urine tests for patients, including some patients who they had hired as employees. Patients allegedly submitted urine samples several times per week, once a day, or even several times per day.
Staff allegedly received “incentives/bonuses of $100.00 or $200.00 per week for requesting that a certain number of urine samples be ordered.” One patient-turned-employee had “blank laboratory forms that were pre-signed by Dr. Braccia. Dr. Braccia’s signature indicated that each test was medically necessary,” but “urine tests were ordered without Dr. Braccia performing any evaluation of the patients.”
Additionally, the Grand Jury alleged:
When instructed to obtain a urine specimen from a patient, the employees would complete the pre-signed form with the patients’ information and send the specimen to whichever Florida-based laboratory Liberation Way was using at that time. Former patients and employees testified that the results of the patients’ urine tests were not discussed with them.
Braccia was charged with the following 10 felony offenses:
|PA Statute||Description of Felony Charges|
|18 §911 §§B3||Corrupt Organizations – Employee, F1|
|18 §911 §§B4||Conspiracy To Violate 911b1, 911b2, 911b3, F1|
|18 §5111 §§A1||Dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities/Intent To Promote, F1|
|18 §5111 §§A2||Knowledge That Property Is Proceeds of Illegal Act, F1|
|18 §4117 §§A2||False/Fraud/Incomp Insurance Claim, F3|
|18 §4117 §§A3||Insurance Fraud, F3|
|18 §4117 §§A5||Insurance Fraud – Knowingly Benefits From Proceeds, F3|
|18 §4117 §§A6||Health Care Facility Insurance Fraud, F3|
|18 §3922 §§ A1||Theft By Deception-False Impression, F1|
|18 §903||Conspiracy – Dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities/Intent To Promote, F1|
Pennsylvania State Board of Osteopathic Medicine: Domenick Braccia License Suspension
Pennsylvania Investigating Grand Jury: Grand Jury Findings
Reading Eagle: Montgomery County drug treatment facility leads region in violations, 2018-03-12
Reading Eagle: Montgomery County drug abuse treatment center responds to citation report, 2018-03-16
Reading Eagle: Liberation Way told to admit no more clients, 2018-03-20
Reading Eagle: Editorial: Agency right to act against troubled treatment center, 2018-03-23
Reading Eagle: State agency: Numbers on Liberation Way’s Fort Washington facility correct, 2018-03-29
Reading Eagle: State still has not approved sale of Liberation Way, 2018-05-09
Reading Eagle: Liberation Way paid no fines for violations, 2018-05-10
Reading Eagle: Violations at Liberation Way, 2018-05-10
Reading Eagle: Former Caron Treatment Centers executive hired to run for-profit drug treatment organization, 2018-05-14
Reading Eagle: State OKs sale of Liberation Way, 2018-05-15
Reading Eagle: Drug treatment is big business in Pennsylvania, 2018-05-19
Reading Eagle: Pennsylvania reduces license of Liberation Way drug treatment facility, 2018-06-15
Reading Eagle: Families search for answers about overdose deaths of treatment-center workers, 2018-06-15
Reading Eagle: Former CEO files suit against Liberation Way, 2018-07-13
Reading Eagle: New owners of Liberation Way file suit against sellers, 2018-08-10
Reading Eagle: Lawmakers shocked, appalled by Liberation Way treatment reports, 2018-08-11
Reading Eagle: Liberation Way’s owners respond, 2018-08-16
Reading Eagle: Liberation Way’s current owners sue co-founder, others, 2018-08-17
Reading Eagle: Read the lawsuit from Liberation Way’s buyers, 2018-08-17
Reading Eagle: Liberation Way drug treatment operation to merge, 2018-09-14
Reading Eagle: How a Pa. treatment center allegedly made millions from drug addicts, 2019-03-25
Philadelphia Inquirer: Bucks drug rehab fraud made millions off patients’ relapses, Pa. attorney general charges, 2019-03-25
Pennsylvania Attorney General: Attorney General Shapiro, US Attorney’s Office Announce Charges Against Eleven People, Nine Businesses in Connection with Treatment Center Insurance Fraud, 2019-03-25
Bucks Courier Times: Yardley drug center, 11 people charged with fraud, 2019-03-25
Reading Eagle: Former employees saddened by alleged Liberation Way schemes that led to 82 felony charges, 2019-03-26
Reading Eagle: Liberation Way operated several schemes, committed fraud, Pennsylvania’s AG says, 2019-03-26
Burlington County Times: Editorial: Addicts became pawns in alleged Liberation Way fraud scheme, 2019-03-29
Courier Post: Seven SJ residents charged in alleged Liberation Way insurance fraud, 2019-04-01
Bucks Courier Times: Patients, employees detail web of deception at Liberation Way, 2019-04-14
Bucks Courier Times: After charges, Liberation Way to close its doors, 2019-04-13
Bucks Courier Times: Treatment center closure leaves clients scrambling, 2019-04-15