Ohio treatment center owner target of Medicaid fraud probe

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Ohio treatment center owner target of Medicaid fraud probe
This Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017 photo shows Ryan Sheridan posing for a portrait in the hallway of the Rich Center for Autism in Youngstown, Ohio. A forfeiture complaint filed last week by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Cleveland seeks to keep around $3.5 million in assets seized from 38-year-old Sheridan after raids at his treatment centers in suburban Youngstown and suburban Columbus.(David Dermer/The Youngstown Vindicator via AP)

CLEVELAND (AP) — A man viewed as a local superhero with a matching car collection and a penchant for completing daring feats for charity is under investigation for his alleged involvement in a multi-million dollar Medicaid fraud scheme at his two Ohio substance abuse treatment centers.

A forfeiture complaint filed last week by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cleveland seeks to keep around .5 million in assets from 38-year-old Ryan Sheridan, whose Braking Point Recovery Services operated centers in suburban Youngstown and suburban Columbus.

The complaint says the forfeitures are “traceable” to federal health care fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering. Justin Herdman, the U.S. attorney for northern Ohio, said Sheridan “ripped off taxpayers.”

“This case underscores that health care fraud is big business and a serious crime, particularly at a time when more resources are being devoted to drug treatment,” Herdman said.

No criminal charges have been filed against Sheridan or anyone associated with Braking Point. Sheridan’s attorney did not respond to repeated messages seeking comment.

The complaint says Braking Point submitted nearly 135,000 claims seeking million in reimbursements from May 2015 until the FBI and other agencies shut down the centers during raids in October 2017. Ohio’s Medicaid agency paid Braking Point million for those claims.

Investigators also searched the homes of Sheridan and his ex-wife, who submitted Medicaid claims for Braking Point. The complaint said the investigation began in December 2016.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office wants Sheridan to forfeit .2 million in a now-frozen bank account, ,000 from a brokerage account and ,000 in bundled cash found in a basement gun safe at Sheridan’s home in Columbiana County.

The complaint asks that Sheridan also forfeit his car collection, which includes a replica Batmobile that Sheridan bought for ,000 and a replica of the “Ghostbusters” hearse he bought for ,000.

According to the complaint, Braking Point billed Medicaid for treatment services that weren’t properly documented and that Sheridan and others pressured employees to submit bills to inflate the amount of time it took to render services to patients. Nurses were told to record that it took at least five minutes for any activity, including handing out ibuprofen, the complaint said.

Medicaid is a health care benefit provided to low-income families and individuals. The federal government covers 62 percent of the cost for Ohio’s program, which is administered by the Ohio Department of Medicaid.

Substance abuse treatment centers have opened in recent years throughout Ohio, which is among the states hardest hit by the opioid crisis. Braking Point only accepted patients who qualified for Medicaid.

A small group of employees rallied in support of Sheridan outside one center location after the October raids. Yet most of the improper practice allegations came from employees.

The complaint details numerous ethical problems with how the centers operated, including employees dispensing drugs to help people manage their withdrawal symptoms without authorization. People admitted to the Austintown Township center’s detox facility sometimes had to wait days before seeing a doctor, according to the complaint.

Sheridan became a minor celebrity in Youngstown, a community still recovering from the decades-old loss of steel plants and manufacturing. News outlets featured him in stories about his feats of daring-do and efforts to raise money for local organizations. The “Ghostbusters” hearse was featured in a Youngstown Christmas Parade. He’d drive his Batmobile to local events dressed as the Caped Crusader.

Sheridan climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and ran with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, last year to raise money for Youngstown State University’s Rich Center for Autism.

“He has been generous and supportive of many local charities,” Bergen Giordani, development director at the Rich Center, told The Associated Press.

Sheridan incorporated Braking Point in January 2015. The complaint said he previously worked at an intervention program for people convicted for driving under the influence. His application to become a Medicaid provider in Ohio included information about convictions for drug possession, operating a vehicle while impaired, menacing and domestic violence between 1998 and 2003, the complaint said.

Sheridan applied to the state to open a second treatment center in Whitehall in Franklin County in late 2016. The center was managed and co-owned by Tom Dailey, who was found dead at a northeast Ohio motel in July 2017 after overdosing on a mix of heroin, fentanyl and cocaine.

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Mark Gillispie can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MarkGillispie1.