Woman ordered to serve more than 3 years for health care fraud

Dr. Robert Grover stands outside Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building after giving his victim statement during Dawn Zehrung's sentencing Monday afternoon, Aug. 22, 2011. U.S. District Court Judge John Woodcock sentenced Zehrung to 37 months in federal prison after she pleaded guilty to health care fraud earlier this year. Dr. Grover hired Zehrung as a billing clerk for his practice, Bangor Women's Health Care, promoting her to billing manager in the summer of 2008.
John Clarke Russ | BDN
Dr. Robert Grover stands outside Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building after giving his victim statement during Dawn Zehrung's sentencing Monday afternoon, Aug. 22, 2011. U.S. District Court Judge John Woodcock sentenced Zehrung to 37 months in federal prison after she pleaded guilty to health care fraud earlier this year. Dr. Grover hired Zehrung as a billing clerk for his practice, Bangor Women's Health Care, promoting her to billing manager in the summer of 2008.
By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff
Posted Aug. 22, 2011, at 4:06 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A federal judge Monday used a baseball analogy in sentencing a Dover-Foxcroft woman convicted of stealing from three different employers in less than 10 years to three years and one month in federal prison.

Dawn Zehrung, 38, also known as Dawn Hull and Dawn Grover, pleaded guilty to the charge in March in U.S District Court — the same courtroom in which she was sentenced. She admitted to falsely billing for more than $300,000 in services not provided by her employer, Bangor Women’s Health Care, in the latter half of 2008 and early 2009.

“If you were in court after committing this crime for the first time or if you were in court after committing it a second time, you might expect some leniency,” U.S District Judge John Woodcock told Zehrung in imposing the maximum sentence under the federal sentencing guidelines. “But this is your third time. In baseball, it’s three strikes and you’re out and this is your third strike, Ms. Zehrung.”

Woodcock ordered a sobbing Zehrung to begin serving her sentence immediately.

In addition to prison time, the judge sentenced Zehrung to three years of supervised release after she completes her prison term. The judge also ordered that she pay more than $355,000 in restitution to five victims, including MaineCare, Medicare and Anthem Blue Cross-Blue Shield.

Zehrung was first convicted of theft in Alaska in 2001 for stealing $10,000 from a pediatric practice, Woodcock said in outlining the defendant’s previous crimes. She was sentenced to 45 days in jail that time.

In 2007, she was convicted in Cumberland County of stealing more than $1,000 from a Brunswick lawyer’s office. She was sentenced to 14 days in jail for that crime, but failed to show up to begin serving her sentence, Woodcock said.

Zehrung was arrested in October on the charge of health care fraud. She worked at Bangor Women’s Health Care from June 2006 to January 2009 and was solely responsible for billing there by 2008. She admitted to submitting fake bills to public and private insurance companies and naming herself as a patient for services she did not receive.

The practice was overpaid by Anthem Blue Cross-Blue Shield, MaineCare and Medicare by more than $300,000, which had to be repaid, according to Dr. Robert Grover, who owns Bangor Women’s Health Care.

Dr. Grover and Zehrung, whose married name previously was Grover, are not related.

The physician told Woodcock on Monday that Zehrung’s actions had been devastating to his business.

“She misled us, lied to us and led our practice to the brink of financial ruin,” he told the judge. “Because of her lies and falsehoods, we committed ourselves to unrealistic long-range contracts, we bought equipment that we can’t afford, and we made promises that we will be hard-pressed to keep.

“Because of her actions, I have had to lay off good and valued employees, causing their families to lose a source of income during very difficult economic times,” he continued. “I have been forced to stop paying for health insurance for my remaining employees and myself; we no longer have a retirement plan for our employees; and I have had to deplete my own retirement funds just to keep the business afloat.”

Documents also show that in December 2007 and January 2009, Zehrung wrote herself “bonus” checks from the medical practice totaling more than $30,000, and stole cash payments made by patients, according to court documents.

She faced a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and full restitution to the victims of the offense. Under the prevailing federal sentencing guidelines, she faced between 2½ and three years and one month behind bars.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/08/22/news/court/woman-ordered-to-serve-more-than-3-years-for-health-care-fraud/ printed on October 1, 2014