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Health center Medicaid bills questioned

The state is investigating a mental health center that billed Florida's Medicaid program for treating 3- and 5-year-old children who the center said had marijuana-smoking habits.

Investigators have seized files and computer discs at the Orlando Recovery Center, and an official of the attorney general's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit said fraud charges were likely.

The center has billed the taxpayer-funded Medicaid program $800,000 in the past 12 months.

"We estimate, based on our reviews, that a significant amount will be fraudulent," said Scott Farr, the unit's Orlando bureau chief.

He offered no details on the bills for the alleged treatment of marijuana-smoking youngsters or on other cases deemed dubious by investigators.

Farr said Wednesday the center obtained the names of people receiving Medicaid benefits so it could submit claims to the government.

Efforts to reach the center's executive director, Frank Williams, were unsuccessful Thursday. The center referred callers to Leonard Knight, chairman of the board of the center, which was licensed July 27, 1993, according to state records.

The center's medical director, Dr. Pauline Gray, told the Orlando Sentinel she was paid to review patients' medical records and was unaware of any problems with billing. She said she didn't examine the patients themselves under her "informal" arrangement with the center.

"I wasn't billing Medicaid," said Gray, who has a private practice in Altamonte Springs.

Records at the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services list Riaz Mazcuri as the center's psychiatrist.

Mazcuri also is school psychiatrist and part-owner of Pineview Academy, a school for emotionally disturbed children in Sanford. Following complaints from some parents, HRS recently ordered Pineview to train its employees in restraint techniques.

Mazcuri also was the target earlier this year of a lawsuit filed by a former patient of University Behavioral Center. The woman alleged she had been tricked into entering the facility and then held against her will.

Mazcuri's lawyer, Terry Hadley, said he could "state categorically that nobody has ever asserted a claim that any of his billings have constituted an impropriety in regard to Medicaid or Medicare."