Ohio BWC Busts Pill-Mill Doc With Undercover Video

                               Columbus, OH (CompNewsNetwork) - Dr. Jean Zannoni of Parma (Cuyahoga County) has been sentenced to two years probation and ordered to pay more than $7,500 in fines and restitution after pleading guilty to theft, attempted workers' compensation fraud and telecommunications fraud. The action occurred following an undercover investigation of an alleged “pill mill” by the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation.

“Through our investigation, we were able to determine Dr. Zannoni was not only fraudulently billing BWC, but providing narcotics without proper medical examination,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephen Buehrer. “This action should serve as a warning to those physicians who put money before the proper treatment of injured workers.”

BWC's Special Investigations Division teamed up with the Strongsville Police Department and Westshore Enforcement Bureau in 2007 to investigate an alleged pill mill at Cleveland Family Practice, 4732 Pearl Road in Cleveland. BWC supplied two undercover agents for the investigation and both were provided narcotic medications without proper medical examinations and BWC was billed improperly for the office visit. Search warrants later executed at her office and residence turned up a copy of orders Zannoni provided to her staff that instructed them to bill all injured workers under the same code and charge BWC $75 no matter the circumstances of their visit.

The team also obtained copies of patient files, including those of BWC's undercover agents.

Zannoni's records falsely indicated she delivered services to the agents that she never provided, and that she elevated pain levels and fabricated tests to justify her continual prescribing of pain medication. When an agent conveyed that she had no pain, Zannoni advised her she had to have pain in order to receive a prescription; however, she wrote the prescription anyway. After the same agent had an MRI that returned normal, Zannoni continued to write the narcotic prescriptions without a physical examination and bill improperly for the visit.

Investigators also found that Zannoni continued to prescribe narcotics to patients who were known doctor shoppers even after receiving warnings from pharmacies, parents, spouses, social service agencies and police departments. In at least one circumstance, Zannoni confronted one of these patients about receiving narcotics from another physician but continued to prescribe on the condition that he promise he would only receive his pain medications from her.

Zannoni originally entered a no contest plea to these charges in September, 2010, but withdrew her plea in October. She pleaded again in June and was given probation, and ordered to pay restitution to BWC in the amount of $5,067.34 and a fine of $2,500.

The undercover video is available here (WMV).

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