Clinic owner pleads not guilty

Published 12:49 pm Saturday, April 20, 2019

Vernier accused of drug trafficking, corrupt activity

The former owner of three addiction centers in the area has pleaded not guilty to the 34 charges brought against him by the Ohio Attorney General.

On March 27, Paul Vernier, who owned three now-closed facilities, one in Pedro and two in Portsmouth, called Community Counseling and Treatment Services, was indicted in Lawrence County. The indictment accused Vernier of Medicaid fraud, drug trafficking and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity. The State of Ohio is seeking forfeiture of $1.7 million dollars and several properties.

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On Thursday, the 57-year-old Vernier pleaded not guilty to all the charges in the Lawrence County Common Pleas Court of Judge Christen Finley.

He was released on his own recognizance but will be required to wear an electronic monitoring device, stay within 100 miles of Ironton and give up his passport.

His next hearing is set for July 3.

The counts against Vernier stem from a 2014 investigation.

Yost said the indictment was the culmination of a multi-agency investigation by Attorney General’s Special Prosecutions Section and Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy and the State Medical Board. He added investigators uncovered evidence that Vernier dispensed Suboxone at his Ironton facility without authorization from a physician. He also allegedly overbilled the Ohio Department of Medicaid for group counseling services and claimed reimbursement for services that lacked supporting documentation.

The indictment accuses Vernier of deceptively getting $1.5 million in payments from the Ohio Department of Medicaid by making false or misleading statements to get reimbursement from the Medicaid program.

The indictment included 34 counts including three counts of third-degree felony Medicaid fraud, 12 counts of money laundering, 17 counts of third-degree felony trafficking in drugs, one count of first-degree felony aggravated theft and one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.

The indictment alleges that on several dates in September 2014, Vernier did knowingly prepare the controlled substance Suboxone for distribution and the amount equals or exceeds five times bulk amount but less than 50 times bulk amount.

The indictment also alleges that Vernier laundered money in March, April, May, June, July and August of 2014.