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Greeneville doc hit with federal fraud charges

By Jamie Satterfield, The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

April 04--A Greeneville doctor accused of smoking crack in between patients is now facing a federal health care fraud indictment.

Dr. Robert Locklear was arraigned this week in U.S. District Court in Greeneville on charges that include conspiracy to distribute cocaine, health care fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

According to the indictment, Locklear operated two clinics from the same Greeneville building -- Trinity Internal Medicine and Sleep, and Trinity Recovery Clinic.

In May 2013, Locklear became a target of narcotics officers in Greeneville when a former employee of the sleep clinic told authorities Locklear had been smoking crack "in between patient visits," according to Tennessee Department of Health records.

A few weeks later, Locklear admitted to police he planted cocaine in the ex-employee's laundry hamper in retaliation and had more than $1,500 worth of cocaine in his pocket, the records showed.

He was charged in state court with drug-related charges, and the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners suspended his license to practice medicine.

A federal probe followed and focused on the sleep clinic and the recovery clinic, where opiate-addicted patients were prescribed suboxone, an opioid designed to curb cravings and withdrawal side effects, the indictment showed.

The indictment stated Locklear employed medical assistants, none of whom were authorized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to prescribe drugs. All were supposed to work only under the close supervision of a doctor, the indictment stated.

The indictment accuses Locklear of conspiring to rip off government-funded health care programs such as Medicare and TennCare from February 2012 to June 2013 by billing the insurance programs for services he said he rendered but instead were carried out by his unlicensed assistants.

"Locklear was physically absent from the medical practices during periods when the medical practices were open for business and providing medical services to patients who were enrolled in health care benefits programs, knowing that no employees at the practices were licensed to provide medical services in his absence," Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Taylor wrote.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis Inman has set a June 5 trial in the case. Locklear is free on $20,000 bond.

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(c)2014 the Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tenn.)

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