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Dr. Michael Kell Convicted Of Medicaid Fraud For Providing Medically Unnecessary Treatments At Methadone Clinic

PRESS ADVISORY

Dr. Michael Kell Convicted Of Medicaid Fraud For Providing Medically Unnecessary Treatments At Methadone Clinic

January 18, 2001

Attorney General Thurbert Baker announced that today Judge Alice Bonner of the Fulton County Superior Court found Michael J. Kell, M.D., guilty of conspiracy to defraud the State, Medicaid fraud, false writings, and three counts of tax evasion. She also found Kell's office manager, Michael Culver, guilty of conspiracy to defraud the State, Medicaid fraud and false writings. Kell and Culver had a non-jury trial before Judge Bonner in December, and Judge Bonner announced her decision in the case today.

The evidence at trial was that Kell, assisted by Culver, operated a methadone maintenance clinic in Atlanta. The two men defrauded Medicaid by performing medically unnecessary drug screens at inflated prices, for Kell's Medicaid patients. All of Kell's patients were taking methadone prescribed by Kell. All drug screens were referred to a laboratory controlled by Kell. Kell's laboratory received approximately $200 for every drug screen performed, and Kell generally ordered that the Medicaid recipients be tested two or three times a week. Complete drugs screens were ordered even though most drug screens of the Medicaid recipients were consistently negative.

“I will vigorously prosecute those who attempt to defraud Georgia’s taxpayers by targeting our Medicaid program,” Baker said. “This case is particularly egregious because the defendant was exploiting patients who were dependent upon him for methadone by fraudulently billing Medicaid for their treatment, including for medically unnecessary procedures,” he continued.

Kell attempted to conceal his ownership of the laboratory by claiming to have sold his laboratory to a Costa Rican corporation. The evidence at trial was that the Costa Rica corporation did not pay any money to Kell for the laboratory, nor were the principals of the corporation ever identified. Kell continued to remain medical director of the laboratory, and all Medicaid payments received by the lab eventually made their way into bank accounts belonging to Kell and Culver.

In order to conceal their income, Kell and Culver put the moneys they obtained into bank accounts of the First Meliorite Church, which in fact never existed. The church was supposedly located in Kell's medical office. Neither Kell nor Culver had filed a state income tax return since 1995, and they had claimed they were not required to pay income tax.

Judge Bonner has set sentencing for February 1, and the defendants remain on bond pending sentencing. Assistant Attorneys General Harrison Kohler and Charles Richards, who are assigned by Attorney General Baker to the State Health Care Fraud Control Unit, prosecuted the case.