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Ex-Temple doc gets 7 years in $1.8 million fraud

A former official at Temple University's School of Medicine was sentenced today to more than seven years in federal prison in connection with a $1.8-million fraudulent-billing scheme.

Dr. Joseph J. Kubacki was assistant dean of medical affairs and chairman of the ophthalmology department. Prosecutors said Kubacki, 62, claimed he saw patients when he was out of town or other patients that were actually treated by resident doctors and then billed Medicare and private health insurers as if he had seen or treated the patients himself.

Kubacki also falsified patient charts by making notations that he had consulted with the patients seen only by resident doctors and thus was able to bill insurers. Residents are paid salaries and are not permitted to bill insurers.

The indictment said the fraudulent-billing scheme began in 2002 and lasted until 2007.

Kubacki, who was convicted by a jury in August of 150 counts of health care fraud and related offenses, was taken into custody after the verdict.

Prior to sentencing, Kubacki told U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno that he took responsibility for his fraud but said he was not motivated by greed.

Kubacki implied that he had the best interests of the school in mind. The pediatric eye specialist said that when he became chairman he inherited a department that was "dysfunctional," $700,000 in the red, understaffed and lacked adequate space and proper equipment.

Kubacki said he was under "tremendous pressure to turn it around."

"So, I signed the charts to keep the department afloat. I could have made more money in private practice," he said.

Ronald H. Levine, a lawyer representing Temple, said: "Asking Kubacki to manage his department effectively provided him no license to defraud either insurance payers or Temple."

Levine said Kubacki "acted on his own and in defiance" of Temple's "repeated compliance training" about proper billing.

Kubacki's criminal misdeeds were motivated "for his own personal benefit," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Kyriakakis. The fraudulent-billing scheme helped Kubacki collect tens of thousands of dollars in annual bonuses.

Prosecutors said they identified 31 private insurers and 215 individuals who made co-pays of $25 on bogus bills for days that Kubacki was absent.

Robreno ordered Kubacki to make restitution of $5,445 to patient victims, pay more than $1 million to Temple, and pay a $15,000 fine.

There was no evidence that any patients were harmed by Kubacki's scheme.

Kubacki left Temple in November 2007 after an internal investigation and had been living in Destin, Fla. prior to the trial.