- The Washington Times - Friday, January 27, 2006

A prominent HIV specialist in the District has been charged with submitting phony Medicare claims and pocketing the money to pay rent, utilities and personal expenses.

Dr. Larry M. Bruni faces up to 10 years in prison for the health care fraud charges, filed Wednesday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in federal court in the District.

The charges followed an investigation into his billing practices from 2001 to 2003. The probe focused on Dr. Bruni’s claims for injections of a drug called Reteplase, usually a first-aid blood thinner for patients within a few hours of a heart attack, according to prosecutors.

However, charging documents say Dr. Bruni submitted claims for injecting the Reteplase in a single patient 185 times. Investigators also found claims for three Reteplase injections in a second patient, records show.

Dr. Bruni, who has since moved to upstate New York, specialized in treating HIV/AIDS patients from his office in the 600 block of Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast.

Dr. Bruni’s attorney, Michael L. Fayad, has declined to comment through a spokeswoman. Messages left at a phone number listed under Dr. Bruni’s name in Albany, N.Y., were not returned.

The charging documents also state that Dr. Bruni worked with another unidentified individual who assisted him in the financial side of his medical practice.

“Larry M. Bruni and the other person used the bank accounts (funded by the Reteplase checks) to pay for their personal expenses and the expenses of the … medical practice,” prosecutors stated in the charging documents.

“These Medicare payments allowed defendant Bruni and the other person to pay the rent on their home and business, to pay utilities, medical bills and to pay for other personal bill and the bills of the medical practice,” the documents stated.

Dr. Bruni’s Reteplase claims totaled more than $500,000, though Medicare did not pay all of them, according to court filings.

The federal insurance program paid 119 of the 188 Reteplase injection claims, and all but one of the checks ended up in bank accounts controlled by Dr. Bruni, prosecutors said.

The Medicare program paid $154,832 to Dr. Bruni for “services which were never provided by the defendant Bruni,” according to court filings.

He has faced legal difficulties in the past. In 1995, a jury awarded more than $4 million to a former patient who said Dr. Bruni gave him HIV drugs for years, though he was HIV-negative.

Dr. Bruni also was a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit filed in 2000 against the District’s election board and the federal government over a local referendum concerning the medical use of marijuana.

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