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Subpoena issued over Cranston chiropractor who got millions from taxpayers

Target 12

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island U.S. Attorney’s Office has issued a subpoena to the state seeking records related to Victor Pedro, the controversial Cranston chiropractor who was repeatedly steered taxpayer funding by House leaders over multiple governors’ objections.

The revelation marks a sharp escalation in the seriousness of the Pedro saga, which dominated headlines toward the end of the legislative session after House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello put $1 million into the state budget to continue funding a program that solely benefited Pedro.

Documents obtained by Target 12 show Pedro has billed state taxpayers $1.453 million to treat 441 patients since he began receiving Medicaid funding in 2015. At last check, his most recent invoice was for $6,000 on July 19 to treat a single patient.

David Levesque, a spokesperson for the R.I. Executive Office of Health and Human Services, told Target 12 the office received the subpoena on July 24 in connection with a federal grand jury investigation.

Levesque said the Department of Justice subpoena sought all medical billing records, external and internal communications, and files and reports related to Pedro.

“EOHHS is complying with that request,” he said.

Pedro has not responded to requests for comment Friday. A message at his office said he is on vacation until next week.

Jim Martin, a spokesperson for U.S. Attorney Aaron Weisman, declined to confirm the grand jury probe. “It is the policy of this office and the Department of Justice to neither confirm nor deny or offer comment on whether we are or are not investigating a matter,” he said in an email.

Larry Berman, a spokesperson for Mattiello, said no subpoenas have been issued to the legislature in connection with Pedro.

The Pedro probe is the second confirmed grand jury investigation tied to Mattiello that has come to light this week. Target 12 revealed on Tuesday that a state grand jury is examining the activities of at least one Mattiello aide during his 2016 re-election campaign.

Pedro came up with his brain injury treatment, dubbed Cortical Integrative Therapy (CIT), around 2000 after conducting a case study involving a patient with ADHD at the University of Bridgeport. He then spent the next few years promoting it as a treatment to cure a slate of medical conditions. 

He started receiving political and financial support in 2004, including a glowing letter to a federal agency from Democratic Congressman Jim Langevin. (Langevin received at least $800 in campaign donations from Pedro between 2004 and 2006, according to federal campaign finance reports.)

That same year, then-Rep. Frank Montanaro — who is now a top aide to Mattiello and one of the speaker’s closest advisers — sponsored a $150,000 community service grant for Pedro, at the time calling his treatment a “money saver.” Mattiello has since said Montanaro’s late father, a powerful labor leader, was a patient of Pedro’s.

The community service grant went to Cumberland, where Lt. Gov. Dan McKee — who was between mayoral terms in Cumberland — championed Pedro’s work and supported its use in the town’s schools.

Pedro, who lives in East Greenwich, received additional legislative-directed grants of $150,000 in 2005 and $142,500 in 2006, despite efforts by Gov. Don Carcieri to get the money removed from the budget.

The public money subsequently dried up, so Pedro turned to Beacon Mutual Insurance Co., which approved his treatment for workers’ compensation funding. A spokesperson said the company has since removed Pedro from its offerings, saying they have “not seen a long-term effectiveness from this treatment.”

When contacted by Target 12 earlier this year, Beacon Mutual officials said they were going to request that Pedro remove promotional material referencing the company from his website.

Pedro’s treatment was also promoted by pop star Paula Abdul in 2013. The singer wrote a review in PainPathways Magazine praising the treatment. A former employee who spoke with Target 12 said Abdul was spotted coming to the office with her then-boyfriend, who dropped her off with bodyguards.

In March 2013, then-Majority Leader Mattiello sponsored a resolution congratulating Montanaro for receiving two awards based on his “commitment” to “helping to advance Cortical Integrative Therapy.”

Three months later, House leaders added a provision to the new state budget directing health officials to “create a new service entitled Cortical Integrative Therapy” as part of Medicaid, which is a state-federal program.

Medicaid funding began to flow to Pedro in the 2015-16 budget, with House leaders approving a three-year pilot program despite opposition from a panel of doctors that advises Rhode Island officials.

Federal officials eventually refused to provide funding for Pedro’s service, leading Gov. Gina Raimondo to repeatedly try and cut the funding — only for Mattiello’s House leadership team to keep adding it back into the budget. They tried to do so again this year but backtracked after a public outcry.

Steve Frias, a Republican who came close to defeating Mattiello in 2016 and again in 2018, seized on the grand jury probe to renew his criticism of the speaker.

“After the wasteful spending on Dr. Pedro was exposed, Speaker Mattiello stated he would ‘continue to support the doctor,'” Frias said in an email. “Instead of continuing to support a ‘doctor’ under federal investigation, I think the speaker should start supporting a line-item veto.”

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

Eli Sherman (esherman@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12. Follow him on Twitter

Steph Machado contributed to this report.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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