Saulino said the costly group therapy sessions were intended for patients with schizophrenia, bipolar conditions and other severe mental illnesses. “Those are the victims who were used to commit this fraud,” she said during closing arguments a week ago.
But a defense attorney for Eckert, American Therapeutic’s therapist in Broward, said she had no clue about any corruption in the company as she counseled patients. “God bless America,” her lawyer, Michael Tein, said after the jury hung on her conspiracy charge and acquitted her on healthcare-fraud offenses. “The system worked.”
Defense attorneys for the two doctors sought to portray the physicians as victims themselves who were kept in the dark by American Therapeutic’s top executives, including owner Lawrence Duran, now serving a 50-year prison sentence. Duran and three other convicted execs pocketed $83 million from Medicare during the past decade.
Attorney Sam Rabin, who represents Willner, tried to show jurors that he worked only part time at two Broward clinics for American Therapeutic, visiting the sites once or twice a week as he interacted with his team of psychiatric nurses.
Ayala’s defense lawyer, Jose Quiñon, also said his client worked part time at American Therapeutic’s clinic in Miami and Homestead, visiting the facilities once a week and relying on a physician’s assistant.
Seitz, the judge, limited their legal strategy by ruling that the two defense attorneys could not try to show that Willner and Ayala were following state law when they relied on other professionals to determine patient diagnoses. Said Rabin: “We will be appealing.”