Even by Miami-Dade’s reputation for Medicare fraud, the indictment was a shocker: American Therapeutic’s patients could not feed themselves or control their own bodily waste. Many lacked the mental capacity to respond to counseling; instead they simply stared at walls or watched TV. An employee complained that those patients should be ineligible for Medicare since they could not benefit from treatment.She got fired. That launched whistle-blower and criminal investigations that led to the Justice Department’s takedown Thursday of Miami-based American Therapeutic Corp., the nation’s largest chain of mental health clinics.
Dr. Maria Carmen Palazzo was a clinical investigator for SmithKline Beecham doing business as GlaxoSmithKline. Prosecutors say that during those studies she included psychiatric diagnoses inconsistent with patients’ psychiatric histories; prepared multiple psychiatric evaluations on study patients which contained different diagnoses and reported symptoms she knew the study subject did not demonstrate.