A physician featured in a Tribune story about the dubious diagnosis and risky treatment of chronic Lyme disease has been indicted on federal charges of health care fraud and filing false tax returns, according to court records.
Dr. Carol Ann Ryser, who specialized in treating people with chronic illnesses, is accused of billing Medicare, the military health program Tricare and private insurance companies for physician office visits when she was really out of town, for physician-supervised intravenous services when no physician was on duty and other allegations detailed in the indictment.
Her husband, Michael Earl Ryser, described in court documents as co-owner and CEO of their Kansas City, Mo., medical clinic, Health Centers of America, also was named as a defendant.
The Rysers also are accused of filing false tax returns for 2006, 2007 and 2008, while reporting a total income of more than $7.5 million for those years, according to court records.
"As defendants then and there knew and believed, their income in the form of gross receipts was a materially greater amount," the June 26 indictment reads.
Carol Ryser's general counsel, Jacques Simon, wrote in an email to the Tribune that the paper has previously distorted the doctor's work and that an indictment is an allegation, not proof.
"It is NOT a conviction," Simon wrote. "It does not mean that the allegations are true, it does not mean that that they can be legally proven at trial, or they have any other value than just that of an indictment. The allegations are still subject in the USA to the Constitutional right to have a trial and be presumed innocent and found not guilty."
He also wrote: "The law and the facts are respectively for the judge and jury to decide not for the Tribune to spin and distort."
Ryser, now 75, was featured in a 2010 Tribune story about physicians who diagnose patients with a chronic form of Lyme disease, an infection typically spread by tiny deer ticks. Despite a lack of scientific evidence supporting chronic Lyme disease, the physicians made the diagnosis and then sometimes treated patients with long, expensive, unproven courses of antibiotics and other therapies, some of which carry considerable risks.
Carol Ryser had been sued by former patients who say she misdiagnosed them with Lyme disease and harmed them with antibiotics and other medicines. Her malpractice insurers have paid more than $2 million in settlements to former Lyme disease patients, court records show.
Ryser also has been investigated by the Missouri medical board, which alleged she misdiagnosed patients with Lyme disease and overcharged them for unnecessary "harmful or dangerous" treatments, according to medical board reports. The case is pending, according to a medical board spokesperson.
In an email sent Thursday, Simon wrote that Ryser denied the board's allegations and she is in the process of litigating the issue.