In an 80-page civil complaint, the United States Attorney's Office claims 51-year-old Doctor Robert Ritchea, a physician, not only allowed an unlicensed medical assistant to inject patients with pain medications, but also improperly billed Medicare for the treatments.
The complaint also alleges Ritchea over-billed Medicare by more than $2.2 million in over 4,300 separate claims over a period of four years.
A WTVM crew went to his office off of Riverchase Drive in Phenix City Friday and while staffers were letting patients inside, the doors were locked when we tried to get it. When we called, we were told the doctor was not in the office.
In a press release announcing the lawsuit, Sally Quillian Yates, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, said, "This lawsuit shows what happens when a doctor puts money before the health and safety of his patients. The complaint alleges not only that Dr. Ritchie allowed an unlicensed medical assistant to inject patients with pain medications, but also that he improperly billed Medicare for the treatments. We are committed to ending this kind of Medicare fraud."
Ritchea's attorney, John Nuckolls, out of Atlanta released this statement to WTVM:
"It astounds and disappoints me that the government would send out a press release knowing the potential harm it might do to a man's career before the matter is properly adjudicated. These are bare allegations."
Nuckolls says the lawsuit is coming out of Atlanta because that's where the government alleges the claims were processed but he says he has no idea where they were handled.
The government's press release states Ritchea admitted to both the Alabama State Board of Medical Examiners and the Georgia Composite State Board of Medical Examiners that the procedures were not medically necessary and that they were over prescribed and over-utilized. The complaint also alleges he billed Medicare for more expensive procedures than were actually performed and that he billed Medicare for other services that are not reimbursable.
If found liable, Ritchea may face damages and civil penalties ranging from $5,000 to $11,000 per claim.
His attorney says he will be filing a response to the complaint within the appropriate time period which is typically 60 days.