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Cleveland doctor sentenced on drug trafficking, fraud charges

Three from Medical Care Group sentenced to date

A Cleveland doctor sentenced last week on felony charges of drug trafficking and workers’ compensation fraud paid $30,000 in restitution to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) and will no longer work in the BWC system.

Dr. Stephen Bernie, 77, also received a six-month suspended prison sentence and a year of probation during his sentence April 26 in a Cuyahoga County courtroom. Besides the drug and fraud charges, he also pleaded guilty on April 5 to a felony count of tampering with records.

Adding to his punishment, BWC is decertifying the physician from its network of approved providers.

“I am pleased that justice prevailed in this case and that Dr. Bernie will no longer be doing business with BWC and its injured workers,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “The funds we recover from this case will go back to the State Insurance Fund for injured workers.”

Bernie worked for Medical Care Group, a chain of Cleveland-area medical clinics at the center of an investigation by BWC and the Westshore Enforcement Bureau in northeast Ohio since 2008.

Using undercover agents and a confidential informant, investigators found the clinics billing the state for medical procedures that never happened, inflating costs and giving out prescriptions for medications — including powerful opioids — without monitoring the patients who took them. Some patients left with prescriptions after less than a minute in the office.

Former clinic co-owner Dianne Javier also was sentenced last week after pleading guilty to workers’ compensation fraud and tampering with records. Like Bernie, she paid BWC $30,000 in restitution and received a suspended jail sentenced and a year of probation. The court also fined the company $12,500.

Another clinic employee, Kim Seltzer, was convicted in September 2015 on similar charges and is serving 51 months in the Mansfield Correctional Institution.

Because of Ohio’s confidentially laws, the State Medical Board could not discuss any details of a possible investigation into Bernie, but Communications Director Tessie Pollock said physicians convicted of felonies could face a range of disciplinary actions up to the permanent revocation of the medical license.

To report suspected workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 or visit bwc.ohio.gov.

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