Psychologist sentenced in workers comp fraud
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A psychologist apologized Tuesday in a Los Angeles court for defrauding the federal government with inflated and fraudulent workers compensation claims.
Dr. Arnold P. Nerenberg of Whittier said Tuesday he was grateful federal agents caught him. In an emotional speech, the 72-year-old told the judge he overbilled patients whose costs were covered by the government so he could treat those who could not pay.
In an agreement with prosecutors, Nerenberg pleaded guilty to one count of fraud. Six other counts were dismissed. He was sentenced to five years' probation with the first 12 months on home confinement and electronic monitoring. He also must pay restitution of $172,754.
After his arrest, Nerenberg said a friend told him: "It's too bad you got caught." He said he disagreed.
"I think it's too bad I committed the crime. I'm grateful I got caught," Nerenberg said. "I wanted to stop what I was doing, but I was caught in an inner struggle. ... I was grateful for the vigorous federal intervention."
Two ex-postal workers indicted with Nerenberg in the 2011 case reached plea agreements and were sentenced earlier to probation and restitution, according to Nerenberg's attorney, Diane C. Bass. They were charged with filing false statements to obtain federal employee compensation from the U.S. Postal Service for medical claims.
U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder said she considered letters from Nerenberg's family and friends in deciding his sentence.
The prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Rozella Oliver, said she was persuaded that there were mitigating factors weighing in Nerenberg's favor. She agreed home confinement was an appropriate sentence.
"Dr. Nerenberg has done far more good than harm," said Bass, who noted that former patients were in the courtroom to support him. She said he had suffered public humiliation and would probably lose his medical license.
"My remorse is profound," said Nerenberg, who spoke of his pain when agents went to interview his former patients.
"They came to me for healing, and the harm that came to them — I just couldn't face it," he said, his voice breaking.
Nerenberg said he is turning his life around, concluding, "I have not always lived with honor, but I will die with honor."
The judge said she was impressed with Nerenberg's remarks and felt he was sincerely sorry. "But this is a very serious crime, defrauding the government of $172,000, whether with good or bad intentions," Snyder said. She then imposed his sentence.