YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The attorney for the former Braking Point Recovery Center owner said his client started the business with the best of intentions to help others, but his “narcissistic tendencies” got in the way.
Instead, Ryan Sheridan ended up committing Medicaid fraud that led to his downfall and a seven and a half year sentence in federal prison, which was handed down Wednesday in the U.S. Northern District Court of Ohio by U.S. Judge Benita Y. Pearson.
Judge Pearson sentenced the 39-year-old Sheridan on 60 counts pertaining to a scheme that federal prosecutors said defrauded $24 million from Ohio in Medicaid funds.
Damian Billak, Sheridan’s attorney, told Judge Pearson his client wanted to help people with substance abuse issues, like Sheridan once had, but he instead relapsed into using drugs and alcohol and got caught up in the scheme.
“That’s [helping people,] what he really wanted to do, but he lost his way,” Billak said.
In a rambling statement before the judge, Sheridan apologized to his family, his former employees and the opiate addicts who made up the base of his clients.
He said whenever he hears of an overdose death he feels responsible because Braking Point was forced to close after it was raided by investigators — addicts who may have checked in to his facility for help had trouble finding places to get rehabilitation.
“Every time I hear someone died from an overdose I feel like I’ve taken something away from the community,” Sheridan told the judge.
Prosecutors said as the owner of Braking Point, Sheridan helped orchestrate the billing of $48 million for services that weren’t provided, weren’t medically necessary, lacked proper documentation or had other issues that made them ineligible for reimbursement.
Investigators said the group developed a “standard protocol” for giving the same amount of Suboxone, a medication used to treat addiction, to every patient who came in for treatment. These patients were not evaluated by a properly licensed doctor first to determine if Suboxone was medically necessary, according to investigators.
Earlier this month, the court approved the seizure of $2.5 million from several of Sheridan’s bank accounts as well as several classic cars because the money and cars were all acquired through illegal means.
Sheridan has been in jail since October for violating the terms of his bond.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Bennett asked for a sentence higher than the federal guidelines of 78 to 97 months in prison. Bennett said Sheridan ran the scheme because he was greedy.
Bennett also said Sheridan berated employees to meet certain quotas to submit false invoices to Medicaid and that a sampling of bills collected by investigators showed that 90% of the bills in the sample were fraudulent.
“It’s greed,” Bennett said. “It’s to bill for as much money as he can.”
Bennett said that in a letter Sheridan wrote in the case, he blamed everyone but himself. He said he threatened his ex-wife and current wife with self-harm, which shows how he manipulates people. Sheridan held Go Fund Me fundraisers for other causes, but pocketed most of the money for himself and went on expensive junkets, Bennett said.
Braking Point billed so much that a pattern began to emerge for investigators, and past employees also reported their practices, Bennett said.
Billak asked for a sentence of 60 months, saying his client has already been punished because his reputation has been besmirched and he is absent from his children and grandchildren and current wife, who is undergoing treatments for leukemia.
Judge Pearson said she would not sentence Sheridan above the guidelines but she also felt a 60 month sentence was too low. She said it would not deter others from the same conduct.
She did tell Sheridan she was pleased when he mentioned what he wants to do when he gets out of prison. Sheridan, who before the judge repeatedly took full responsibility for his actions, said he still wants to help people.
“I’m excited to get this over,” Sheridan said.