Thursday, September 7, 2006

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Palestine Physician Charged With Identity Theft, Medicaid Fraud In Writing Prescriptions

PALESTINE - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit’s investigation of a local physician has resulted in grand jury indictments and his arrest on charges of felony identity theft and possession of dangerous drugs.

Dr. Robert J. Byrnes, 47, who resides in Jacksonville, was arrested by Palestine police Friday on an outstanding warrant issued following indictments handed down August 29. The Anderson County indictments allege Byrne forged the name of a former acquaintance to illegally obtain prescription drugs for himself. At the time of his arrest, he was also charged with possession of a prescription of the painkiller OxyContin, which was filled in the acquaintance’s name without that person’s consent.

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Robert Byrnes
Robert Byrnes

“Financial fraud of the Medicaid program, together with drug diversion schemes for personal use, will not be tolerated in Texas,” said Attorney General Abbott. “We cannot allow the credibility of hard-working, honest medical professionals and the state’s health care system for the needy to be compromised by criminals who exploit the program.

“Our Medicaid Fraud Control Unit is proud to work with Anderson County Criminal District Attorney Doug Lowe and other law enforcement officials to protect Texans against this kind of abuse.”

Byrnes served as an occupational medicine physician at Palestine Medical and Rehabilitation Clinic. He is also being investigated for allegedly overprescribing OxyContin to a patient. Medicaid was subsequently billed nearly $28,000 by pharmacies for these alleged illegal prescriptions. In August, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration suspended Byrnes’ federal license to prescribe narcotics.

The case is being jointly pursued also with the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Anderson County District Attorney’s Office and the Palestine Police Department.

To obtain more information about the Attorney General’s efforts to fight Medicaid fraud, access the agency’s Web site at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.