A 47-year-old Mount Pleasant man pleaded guilty Sept. 2 to health care fraud after admitting he bilked Medicare out of $194,000.
Joseph Benjamin Barton, a chiropractor who owns and operates of Midlands Physical Medicine LLC in Richland County, admitted to submitting false claims to Medicare for “implantable neuro-stimulator pulse generators,” according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Implantable neuro-stimulator pulse generators are surgically implanted devices used to treat chronic pain, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Barton’s patients did not receive the alleged services, which were submitted for approval under the name of a doctor no longer affiliated with Barton’s practice, according to M. Rhett DeHart, the acting U.S. attorney for South Carolina.
Barton claimed another doctor performed the surgery, but that physician, who lived in Florida, was not a part of the practice and was unaware that Barton had submitted the claims, the release states. Authorities learned it was a physician assistant who was actually using a different device on patients. That device was not covered by Medicare, the release states.
The fraud was committed between June 2016 and February 2017, the release states.
Health care fraud, a felony, is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
Barton is free on a personal recognizance bond while awaiting sentencing, which has not yet been scheduled by U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs, who accepted Barton’s guilty plea, court records show.
Barton also was sued in 2018 by a 25-year-old female employee of Midlands Physical Medicine, who claimed the chiropractor sexually harassed her at the clinic. The woman, not identified in the lawsuit, alleged Barton made inappropriate comments about her body, sent her lewd text messages and videos, and inappropriately touched her at the office, according to the civil complaint.
After the woman complained to an office manager about Barton’s behavior in 2017, she was fired, the complaint states.
The woman also alleged in the lawsuit that Barton tried to convert her to Scientology, a religion founded by a science fiction author.
The lawsuit was settled in December 2018 for $75,000, court records state.
Barton remains licensed as a chiropractor in South Carolina, according to state records.
The federal fraud case is being investigated by the Office of the Inspector General for United States Department of Health and Human Services. Assistant United States Attorney Winston Holliday is prosecuting the case.
Reach Steve Garrison 843-607-1052. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT.