Yet Another Dr. Brown Lawsuit: Franchisees Say He's Tapping Their Phones, Overbilling Patients

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Physician-franchisees of erstwhile hand doctor/wife-beater Michael Brown's medical empire have sued Brown in Harris County District Court, accusing him of siphoning money for personal "perks," tapping office phones, overbilling patients and blocking doctors' computer access.

It's a bit confusing, but Brown's business interests are sort of like Jiffy Lubes of medicine, with the franchisees in this case -- Stephen Barrett, Peter Bregman and three other physicians -- running Barrett Foot & Ankle Centers in San Antonio and Phoenix. They pay a 15 percent royalty to the Brown Hand Center, as well as fees to the Brown-owned Surgeon's Management Inc., which collects the money.

The plaintiffs allege that Brown -- personally, and through his companies -- has "altered" the foot doctors' "computer access codes and passwords, thereby locking them out of their computers, clinical databases, and electronic medical records that are an integral part of providing treatment for patients."

The suit also claims that Surgeon's Management is "unilaterally adjusting the medical fees" at the podiatry depots, in one case inflating a $8,000 procedure to a cool $70,000. Part of this is due to Brown forcing Barrett patients to undergo surgery at the Brown-owned St. Michael's Center for Specialty Surgery, the suit claims. Those centers, according to the suit, "have a history of systematically overbilling patients."

Brown has also collected unauthorized distributions "for his personal use under the guise of business expenses and/or 'perks,'" the suit alleges.

The franchisees (that's how you know you've really ascended to the pinnacle of medicine, by the way -- when you can tell people you're a fucking franchisee) also say Brown "conspired to wire tap...telephones and other communication devices for the purpose of eavesdropping and spying on the physicians."

This must have been a rude awakening for Barrett and his pals, since at no point in the history of the universe has Michael Brown demonstrated that he is anything but an ethical, morally upright citizen whose sole purpose in life is to help other people.

The franchisees are seeking a temporary restraining order and an unspecified sum in damages. Brown has not filed a response.

Allegations of financial weirdness first surfaced during Brown's divorce case, when his chief financial officer invoked his Fifth Amendment right in response to questions about Brown underlings allegedly funneling him $17,000 in cash from his various businesses.

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