Maria Carpenter, an bookkeeper for an insurance company in Newberry, told a jury Monday morning that she had received skin care treatment at Reliant Family Practice in January 2015 for some discoloration on her forehead and adult acne, including one chemical peel.
What wasn't true, she said, were the notes her skin care provider wrote in her patient file, which claimed Carpenter had 95 total skin lesions, or abnormal growths, all over her body.
The federal trial for Reliant owner Dr. Erik Michael Schabert, a licensed osteopathic physician, and his then-wife and office manager Mika Kamissa Harris, a licensed cosmetologist, entered its third week Monday. The two are accused of filing $4.4 million in false insurance claims to Blue Cross Blue Shield and Medicare between January 2013 and July 2016, and falsifying patient symptoms and diagnoses in the process.
Both Schabert and Harris face one charge of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and 41 counts of health care fraud.
Harris is also charged with another 40 counts of money laundering that include $3.1 million in proceeds from the suspected health care fraud scheme, court records show.
Carpenter told jurors Harris treated her six or seven times total, with most of her visits consisting of basic cleansing processes and acne extraction. On her final visit, Carpenter said, she received a chemical peel, which can be used to treat rough skin and some growths.
However, the prosecution said, claims to her insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield, showed much more extensive treatment. The insurance company was charged $25,000 total for Carpenter's treatments, which she did not know until years later, she said.
Harris also briefly employed Carpenter as a bookkeeper for less than a month in spring 2015, Carpenter said. Carpenter said she had never seen Harris nor any other skin care providers write up patient notes.
Carpenter decided to leave the job, she told jurors, because Harris had been causing a "tense" work environment. She had seen Harris and Schabert arguing about why he was not referring more patients to her.
"There was a lot of tension in the office," Carpenter said. "You could just feel it. It became very uncomfortable."
The lack of cohesion between Carpenter's recounting of her skin care treatment at Reliant and what insurers were told existed for dozens of other patients, according to documents shown to the jury.
Some patients for whom Harris and Schabert provided skin care treatment between 2013 and 2016 received false diagnoses of rosacea, acne and actinic keratosis based upon signs and symptoms they did not exhibit, federal prosecutors said.
Robert Murphy, a special agent in the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services based in Jacksonville, testified about the Reliant claims he reviewed during the office's investigation.
Claims ranged from $400 to $1,000 for acne surgery, chemical peels and facial dermabrasions, a procedure used to help repair scarring.
Some patient charts contained inconsistencies, such as one patient's from July 2014, which noted 43 skin lesions throughout the person's body.
The next day, 70 lesions were noted, despite having received treatments that would have improved skin condition a day earlier.
For dozens of patients who, according to insurance claims, received surgeries and treatments, records of the procedures in their patient file are not indicated at all.
For one patient who on July 17, 2013, received a chemical peel, according to a claim filed to Blue Cross Blue Shield: "There are no notes indicating that a chemical peel was done," Murphy said.
If convicted, the two could face a maximum term of 20 years in prison for health care fraud conspiracy and 10 years in prison for each health care fraud charge. Harris could face more time for the money-laundering charges.
If convicted, they also must forfeit a property at 7115 NW 14th Ave., which appears to be a home, and 4408 NW 36th Ave., the address of About Skin, a laser hair removal and skin "medspa" and an annuity account in Harris' name.
The trial is expected to continue over the next two weeks.
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