Owner of Milwaukee health clinic to pay $4M to settle fraud claims

MILWAUKEE -- The owner of a Milwaukee mental health clinic will pay $4 million to settle fraud claims, but FOX6 Investigator Bryan Polcyn shows us why questions remain about his connections to the clinic that replaced him.

It's been nearly two years since Acacia Mental Health closed its doors near 53rd and Fond du Lac. Friday, March 29, the government says it struck a deal to get millions of dollars back for taxpayers.

Therapists who once worked at Acacia Mental Health say they have no doubt the clinic's owner, Abe Freund, valued profits over patients.

"He said to me, 'remember this is a business. I want money, you want money.' And he would leave it at that," said Brett Engel, former Acacia Mental Health therapist.

FOX6's Bryan Polcyn: "He would do that hand gesture?"

Engel: "Yes. It was nauseating."

A 2014 lawsuit accused Freund of using Wisconsin's neediest patients to bilk Medicaid out of millions, putting patients through unnecessary drug tests and inflating claims.

"Profiting from their suffering essentially," said a former therapist at Acacia Mental Health, who wishes not to be identified.

Now, the government says Acacia and its owners have agreed to pay $4 million in compensation, plus a 20-year suspension from Medicare and Medicaid for Abe Freund -- and a five-year suspension for his son, Isaac Freund.

However, a FOX6 Investigation found questions remain about Freund's connection to the clinic that replaced his.

"Literally, they just posted a new banner on the building," said a former therapist at Acacia Mental Health, who wishes not to be identified.

Three days after Acacia Mental Health closed, Achievement Associates opened up. Its owner lives in the same small New York village as Abe Freund, and a drug testing lab in the same building is owned by Isaac Freund. But state health officials say they are aware of "no disclosed connections" between Freund and the new clinic.

Brett Engel

"Any sort of involvement with the clinic by him. That's not OK," Engel said.

The lawsuit against Acacia and Freund started as a whistleblower complaint by a nurse practitioner named Rose Presser. Because of that, she will get a share of the $4 million settlement.

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