A Medical Device Daily

The FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations reported that a New Jersey woman has been sentenced to 33 months in prison for falsely claiming that she could cure amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's Disease.

Elizabeth Lerner, a.k.a. Elizabeth Cooperman, of Egg Harbor City, New Jersey, was sentenced in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey for defrauding two ALS patients and their families.

She also was ordered to pay $35,390 in restitution to the victims of the scheme and a criminal fine of $7,500.

From October 2002 until November 2004, Lerner and Charlene DeMarco, a co-conspirator, defrauded ALS patients and their families by claiming they could treat the disease via stem cell therapy, though they knew they could not. The defendants falsely told their patients and their families that DeMarco had previously received FDA approval to treat ALS.

"The FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations aggressively pursues those that provide false hope to patients by making unproven medical claims to unsuspecting patients — many with serious or life-threatening conditions who are desperate for a medical cure," said Terry Vermillion, director of FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations.

Lerner and DeMarco, a former doctor of osteopathy in Egg Harbor City, were convicted in December 2006 of all charges contained in an 11-count federal indictment. The indictment included one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, three counts of mail fraud, six counts of wire fraud, and one count of money laundering.

DeMarco was sentenced on September 2007 to 57 months in prison, ordered to pay $32,190 in restitution to victims of the scam, and to pay a criminal fine of $7,500.

Prosecutors said that Lerner and DeMarco also attempted to defraud two patients and their families in Louisiana of more than $140,000 and successfully obtained more than $40,000 from the scheme. Witnesses described how Learner and DeMarco illegally laundered money they received and used the proceeds for personal expenses.

In other legalities:

A Minnesota jury has awarded more than $130 million to a Minnesota dental group, PDG, (Minneapolis), after a month-long breach of contract trial.

The verdict, reached by the unanimous jury after three days of deliberations, included $88.3 million in actual damages and an additional $42.25 million in punitive damages.

The litigation firm of Anthony Ostlund & Baer (Minneapolis) represented PDG.

The case arises from a 1996 agreement between PDG and American Dental Partners subsidiary, PDHC, in which PDG agreed to pay PDHC certain fees in exchange for non-dental administrative services. For the first several years, the relationship worked as intended. PDG claimed that starting in about 2004, PDHC overstepped its authority by taking various actions that constituted the practice of dentistry and violated the parties' contract.

PDG, a dental group comprised of 115 doctors, asserted claims against its administrative service provider, American Dental Partners and its local subsidiary, PDHC. PDG alleged that the service provider wrongfully engaged in conduct constituting the practice of dentistry in violation of Minnesota law and the parties' contract.

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