Chiropractor defrauded ACC of $130k

A chiropractor who defrauded ACC of more than $130,000 is serving out a community detention sentence in Arrowtown.

Matthew Richard Cochrane was convicted in the Auckland District Court in July after admitting eight charges of dishonestly using a document over a 20-month period in 2015 and 2016.

The 45-year-old, who was living in Queenstown’s Lake Hayes Estate for part of that time, was operating as a licensed chiropractor in the resort and the Auckland area in March 2015 when the ACC asked him to explain his unusually high treatment numbers.

When told his practices didn’t meet the legal threshold for ACC-funded treatment, he undertook to reduce his hours.

But his billing practices continued.

Electronic appointments data obtained by the police showed that compared to a typical chiropractor, who invoiced ACC $21,000 a year, he invoiced it for more than $225,000 over the offending period.

He overbilled for more than 1000 fake appointments that he created after the appointments had purportedly taken place.

He also created another nearly 2500 appointments for durations of 45 or 60 minutes when they typically did not go longer than half an hour.

In all he fraudulently claimed $134,578 from ACC between March 10, 2015 and October 5, 2016.

The police first interviewed Cochrane in June 2018, but he continued to deny the charges for nearly two years.

A trial was scheduled for April this year, then put off.

He finally admitted the charges after receiving a sentence indication in May.

Mountain Scene has only just obtained Judge Christopher Field’s sentencing notes.

He told Cochrane his offending was a breach of trust and ‘‘effectively a theft from the community’’.

‘‘It happened over a period of time and involved a substantial amount of money.’’

Field said there had been ‘‘some doubt’’ about Cochrane’s sincerity, ‘‘but that has now been overcome and I accept from the court’s point of view that you are genuine and you wish to make reparation and make amends’’.

From a starting point of three years’ prison, Field sentenced Cochrane to five months’ community detention at an Arrowtown address.

Until it runs out in December, he must abide by a nightly curfew between 6.30pm and 6am.

He must also complete 100 hours’ community work.

Field said Cochrane ‘‘no longer works in a medical capacity’’.

The company under which he was operating, Cochrane Advanced Therapy Ltd - trading as ‘Bodyworks’ - was put into liquidation in 2017.

Scene approached Cochrane, through his lawyer, to comment on this story.

There was no response by deadline.

But NZ Chiropractors Association council member Jenny Duehr tells Scene the case is ‘‘disappointing’’.

‘‘That’s not our expectations for our profession, because we have a good relationship with ACC and we do uphold some really high standards and ethics with that.’’

Chiropractors must be registered with and hold a practising certificate from the NZ Chiropractic Board to work in NZ.

Board chairman Tim Cooper says he can’t comment on the case because it’s still under review.

He did, however, confirm Cochrane does not hold a current practising certificate.

 

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