(CN) - A Florida investigator had probable cause to target two individuals who were ultimately acquitted of Medicaid fraud, a federal judge ruled.
Mentora Eubanks owned Southeastern Wellness Institute and employed Dr. Arthur Henson as the treating physician.
Lt. Carol Freburger of Florida Attorney General Office's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigated the clinic for Medicaid fraud, and the duo were arrested in 2005.
The attorney general announced that Eubanks and Henson had operated without a license and provided narcotic prescriptions in exchange for cash.
They were acquitted in February 2008, and sued Freburger in 2011 for violations of their due process rights, defamation, outrageous conduct and malicious prosecution.
Eubanks and Henson say Freburger knew the allegations were false, but threatened patients with the loss of their Medicaid benefits if they did not lie in their affidavits to support her investigation.
Freburger moved for summary judgment, saying probable cause bars the complaint.
Eubanks and Henson opposed her motion.
U.S. District Judge James Cohn agreed last week, finding that Freburger had probable cause based on the interviews she conducted.
These allegations made it appear that Eubanks was operating a pharmacy and dispensing prescription without a license, ordering prescriptions while Henson's dispensing license was suspended, and ordering prescriptions under a doctor's name without his permission.
Freburger also interviewed a patient who said she saw Eubanks sign prescriptions without permission from a physician.
There was also probable cause to arrest Henson, according to the ruling.
"Defendant weighed the fact that Henson appeared to be prescribing medications without medical necessity in light of other circumstantial evidence," Cohn wrote. "In the course of her investigation, defendant uncovered one of Henson's patients who was prescribed drugs despite an MRI showing she was not injured, and at least two patients with extensive medical histories that clearly contraindicated the prescription of pain medication. She then reasonably interpreted this evidence in view of other evidence she had found: two witnesses who said that SWI's primary motivation was monetary gain; Henson's offering to double patients dosages of a highly addictive medication without apparent medical reason; and Henson's history at the Latin Quarter clinic [where the manager was arrested for Medicaid fraud]. The court concludes this is ample evidence for a reasonable law enforcement officer to believe that Henson was prescribing medication solely for pecuniary gain."
Probable cause bars the alleged state-law violations and the claims of malicious prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional distress, according to the ruling.
Cohn also dismissed Eubanks and Henson's motion to strike and denied vying motions in limine.
Three other individuals who had also been named as defendants were dismissed from the case earlier.
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