Feds investigating pain management company
Nashville Tennessean USA TODAY NETWORK - TENNESSEE
Federal authorities are quietly investigating Comprehensive Pain Specialists, a large Brentwood-based pain management company that abruptly closed dozens of clinics in eight states last month.
The company operated clinics in Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga, Clarksville and throughout rural Tennessee.
The federal investigation, led by the civil division of the US Attorney’s Office, is separate from and in addition to an ongoing criminal prosecution of the company’s former CEO, John Davis, who was indicted for health care fraud earlier this year.
The civil investigation was revealed in a federal court transcript filed in Davis’ case on Monday. While differentiating the civil investigation from Davis’ court case, federal prosecutor Anthony Burba described the probe as related to “transactions and other business” at Comprehensive Pain Specialists.
For now, it is unclear what this other business might be. The investigation has not yet led to any court filings or allegations of wrongdoing. It has been ongoing for at least four months and it is unclear when it will end. The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment.
Comprehensive Pain Specialists, widely known as CPS, was found in 2005 and grew into the largest pain management company in the American Southeast, treating more than 48,000 patients a month. But the company abruptly shuttered its clinics on July 30, leaving patients and employees with little notice to find new doctors and new jobs. Some patients have said they were prescribed pills that will last only through the end of September, at which point they must find a new source of medicine in a state that has become increasingly suspicious of opioid prescriptions.
Since the closure, several patients have described a struggle to get CPS to hand over their medical records, which they will need to seek treatment from another doctor. Some medical experts had told The Tennessean they are concerned some patients, if unable to obtain new treatment, might turn to heroin.
CPS has been tightlipped about the clinic closures. The company said last month it would undergo a “responsible wind down of operations” as a result of “significant regulatory and operational uncertainty” in the pain management industry. No other explanation for the shutdown has been provided.
The company did not respond to a request for comment on the federal investigation.
Davis, the former CPS CEO, led the company from 2011 to 2017. He was indicted in April for allegedly accepting $770,000 in bribes in return for referring patients to another company, CCC Medical. The CEO of CCC Medical, Brenda Montgomery, allegedly used these referrals to file $4.6 million in fraudlent Medicare claims, of which the government paid about $2.6 million.
Prosecutors have said in court documents that Davis and Montgomery attempted to disguise the bribes through the “sham” sale of a shell company, ProMed Solutions. The company had no property, operations or assets of any kind, and yet Montgomery paid $150,000 to buy ProMed from Davis, court documents state.
Both Davis and Montgomery have pleaded not guilty.
According to the newly released court transcript, this bribery scheme was first uncovered in the civil investigation into CPS, which appears to have included a review of the company’s email server. At some point during that investigation, the civil division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office handed over the bribery allegations to criminal prosecutors, but continued their own investigation, creating two parallel but separate probes.
Even though the criminal case was started by the civil investigation of CPS, the prosecution actually has little to do with the company itself, prosecutors said.
“This case has to do with Mr. Davis and Ms. Montgomery having an agreement that was related to, but aside from, his employment at CPS,” Burba said in court, according to the transcript. “There’s no allegation in this case of wrongdoing by CPS.”
Davis’ attorney, Kimberly Hodde, did not respond to a request for comment.
CPS has previously employed state Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, as a doctor in its former clinic in Gallatin. Dickerson, an anesthesiologist, is still listed as an employee on the company website. Dickerson did not respond to an email asking for comment.
Kaiser Heath News contributed to this report.
Brett Kelman is the health care reporter for The Tennessean. He can be reached at 615-259-8287 or at brett.kelman@ tennessean.com. Follow him on Twitter at @brettkelman.
The Comprehensive Pain Specialists clinic in Murfreesboro is among those that closed abruptly. HELEN COMER / DNJ