Detelich photo

Brent J. Detelich

A former local chiropractor was convicted by a jury Friday of health care and mail fraud, but has not given up fighting the charges.

Brent J. Detelich, 37, of Clearwater, Fla., filed a motion for acquittal some days ago, his attorney, Robert J. Ridge, said after Friday’s verdict. The motion was not made public during the trial, and the judge reserved action on it until after the trial, Ridge said, adding that U.S. District Court Judge Joy Flowers Conti, Pittsburgh, will set a schedule for both sides to file briefs.

Detelich, who remained upbeat after the verdict, and Ridge declined to comment on the verdict.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Shaun E. Sweeney said he felt the evidence justified the verdict.

“They paid attention for three weeks,” he said of the seven-man, five-woman jury.

Sweeney praised agents of the FBI and the state Attorney General’s Office, who investigated the case, for their thoroughness and preparation.

Sweeney said he has only been the prosecutor on the case for four months, assigned when Assistant U.S. Attorney Nelson Cohen left the Pittsburgh office.

“We were very conservative in our presentation of the evidence,” Sweeney said.

Judge Conti said Detelich can remain free on the conditions that previously were set, and said she would set a sentencing date in a few days.

The charge of health care fraud is punishable by a prison term of up to 10 years, and mail fraud of up to 5 years. Detelich also could be fined. A presentence report will take into account the crime, Detelich’s background and other factors.

“The amount of loss will drive the sentencing,” Sweeney said.

Officials have not settled on how much money Detelich allegedly took in by defrauding Highmark Inc. by billing for services to patients that were not performed. Judging by the amounts stipulated in plea agreements with others charged in the case, it’s likely to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Jurors started deliberating at 1:50 p.m. Thursday, and broke for the day at 4 p.m. They picked up discussions at about 9:30 a.m. Friday and informed the bailiff at about 11 a.m. that they had reached a verdict.

Detelich, whose parents were in the courtroom, made no identifiable reaction when the guilty verdicts were read by the judge’s law clerk.

Detelich, who grew up in the Shenango Valley area and lived in Clark in the 1990s, owned Detelich Chiropractic and its successor, Advanced Medical and Holistic, both formerly of Hermitage, until Advanced Medical closed in 2002. Prosecutors presented evidence by employees that Detelich instructed them to pull treatment cards of patients who had not been treated, so their insurance companies could be billed. Some patients were billed up to three times a week every week, and the list of their names became known as the “hit list.”

Patients also testified that they had arrangements with Detelich to split some of the fees he received as a result of the insurance payments.

Prosecutors abandoned charges Detelich charged for services that brought in more money than the services for which patients were actually treated, and that he tried to influence people as to how to talk to investigators.

The defense, while never coming flat out and saying that Detelich charged for services not rendered, said Detelich had reformed himself and his business, and that he was no longer involved in the scheme by early 2000. The date was significant because Detelich, who is married and has three children ages 10 and younger, was indicted on Nov. 3, 2005, and the statute of limitations requires that someone be charged with health care and mail fraud within five years of the crimes occurring.

Dates were at issue throughout the trial, especially under cross-examination by Ridge or his wife, Lourdes Sanchez Ridge, both of the law firm Thorp Reed, Pittsburgh. Many witnesses, some asked to think back on events that happened 10 years ago, gave approximate dates and said they could not remember exact dates, or even years, while the Ridges used documents to more exactly set a time frame in which events occurred.

Although two Highmark employees testified, the company took no position as to whether fraud occurred or the company lost any money. One employee said the company trusts its doctors to do the right thing.

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