MALDEN — Brookline doctor Punyamurtula Kishore has treated and helped thousands of drug addicts, but authorities say he also bilked hundreds of thousands of dollars from Medicaid with a kickback scheme that sent urine drug testing to his nonprofit agency.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,’’ said Nancy Maroney, assistant attorney general, during Kishore’s arraignment yesterday morning in Malden District Court. She said that in addition to a charge of “medical assistance bribe/kickback,’’ other charges are pending against Kishore, a 61-year-old citizen of India who has lived in the United States since 1977.
Prosecutors said that Kishore bilked as much as $597,000 from MassHealth from July 2006 through January 2010 and that he may have stolen millions of dollars more from the government in other fraudulent schemes. Maroney declined to specify the nature of the pending charges, but said the defendant was paid about $20 million by MassHealth in the past four to five years.
Kishore started his business, Preventive Medicine Associates Inc., in 1996 with one office in Brighton. Since then, he has opened as many as 30 offices from Greenfield to Barnstable.
Kishore has shut down many of those offices in recent weeks, surprising his staff and patients. Maroney said he may have been preparing to flee the country and prosecution, prompting law enforcement officials to arrest the doctor Tuesday evening at his home on Clinton Road in Brookline, rather than wait to file all of the charges together.
Kishore has pleaded not guilty to the kickback charge. His attorney, Mark Berthiaume, said during the arraignment yesterday that the office closings were necessary because Kishore is under “extreme financial pressure,’’ and has not received a penny from MassHealth since June.
“For a long time, he has been an extremely well-regarded member of the community, and he absolutely denies all of the allegations,’’ Berthiaume said. He added that his client has no criminal history.
Kishore, dressed in a dark-green V-neck sweater and a white shirt, stood behind a waist-high wall and flashed a smile at his wife moments before the arraignment started.
But his expression turned dour as Maroney presented her case to Judge Lee G. Johnson, who ordered him held on $150,000 bail pending a pretrial arraignment on Oct. 12.
Kishore’s wife declined to comment after the proceeding. Kishore has two children, ages 24 and 27, who are both in college, Berthiaume said.
An affidavit from State Trooper John MacDonald, who is assigned to the attorney general’s office, detailed the alleged scheme.
Kishore allegedly paid Damion P. Smith - president of Fresh Start Recovery Coalition Inc., a Malden company that owned and operated sober houses across the state - $2,500 a month in exchange for Smith sending urine screenings to a nonprofit that Kishore created, the National Library of Addictions.
Smith told investigators that he entered into a contract with Kishore in 2006 to refer residents of Fresh Start to Kishore’s agency for drug testing.
An average of three residents would visit three times every week, at a cost of $100 to $200.
Russell Aims, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine, said no disciplinary action has been taken against Kishore since he was licensed in 1978.
Aims also said the board has no reports of Kishore having to make payments on malpractice suits.
The public relations firm Mills & Co. has pitched story ideas about Kishore to the Globe since at least April, including his efforts to map addiction at a neighborhood level and to create training programs for addiction specialists.
Scott Farmelant, a principal at the firm, said yesterday that he knew Kishore was having business troubles, but did not know about the investigation. He called the charges “a plain old tragedy’’ for addicts in the state, saying Kishore was a strong advocate.
In an interview with the Globe in May, Kishore said that he was seeing between 600 and 700 new patients each month and about 20,000 each year.
He talked about a project to map addiction in Malden using his patient base and Google maps. In a Powerpoint presentation that he created and provided to the Globe, he said that his business in that city had grown 81 percent from 2009 to 2010.
Kishore said his practice focused on treating people in their homes rather than in inpatient facilities, because home-based care could help address problems in the family system, including the addiction of family members.
He also promoted drug testing in children, saying families and pediatricians should move away from a “don’t ask, don’t tell’’ stance when it comes to substance abuse in order to get children the care they need.