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Whittier psychologist charged with bilking nearly $1 million from government

June 14, 2011 |  4:53 pm

A Whittier psychologist was arrested by federal agents Tuesday morning for allegedly bilking the government of nearly $1 million, including fees for treatment sessions that supposedly took place while he was out of the country.

Arnold P. Nerenberg, 69, co-founder of the Whittier-based World Legion of Power bodybuilding organization, was charged June 8 under a 15-count federal grand jury indictment of mail fraud.

Also charged with mail fraud and making false statements are two former postal workers, Lois L. Washington, 47, of Inglewood and Cetric T. Fletcher, 51, of Long Beach, according to officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who investigated the case along with the U.S. Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General, the Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Labor.

Each mail fraud count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

The indictment alleges that from June 2000 through April 2008, the defendants submitted fraudulent paperwork to obtain "compensation for psychological conditions that were never diagnosed and reimbursement for medical expenses that were never incurred," ICE officials said in a statement.

Investigators allege Nerenberg billed the government for treatment sessions with the defendants even though records indicate the psychologist was out of the area or out of the country when the appointments purportedly took place.

Nerenberg allegedly helped an undercover agent posing as a postal worker "patient" secure disability pay from the Department of Labor based on his alleged fear of dogs.

In all, the U.S. Postal Service was billed nearly $1 million in bogus medical fees, receiving half that amount in payment. Fletcher allegedly pocketed more than $200,000 as a result of the scheme while Washington allegedly made more than $145,000.

Washington is accused of submitting fraudulent paperwork to the Department of Labor’s worker compensation program, claiming she was unemployed and had no income even though she had jobs as a loan officer, notary and real estate agent.

Both ex-postal employees also are accused of seeking reimbursement for travel to medical appointments that never took place, the indictment alleges.

“The workers’ compensation program benefits thousands of postal employees who have received legitimate on-the-job injuries," said U.S. Postal Service Inspector General David C. Williams. "But false claims by postal employees like these two, and by healthcare providers like Mr. Nerenberg, undermine the system.”

-- Andrew Blankstein (On Twitter @anblanx)