An Arkansas psychiatrist who once ran the state’s medical board has been arrested for alleged Medicaid fraud.
An affidavit filed with the arrest warrant and obtained by NBC News alleges that Dr. Brian Hyatt billed Medicaid for its most expensive billing codes while he was running the locked behavioral unit at the Northwest Medical Center in Springdale, even though investigators concluded that he was rarely in the building.
Hyatt was arrested by the Rogers Police Department on Monday. In a statement after arrest, Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin said, “My office has made arrangements with Dr. Hyatt’s attorney for Hyatt to appear in Pulaski County for a bail hearing later this month.”
More than 40 former patients have also accused Hyatt in civil lawsuits of having imprisoned them against their will while he was running the locked behavioral health unit from February 2018 through May 2022.
Hyatt’s contract with the hospital was abruptly terminated when Medicaid fraud allegations first surfaced in May 2022. He stepped down as chairman of the State Medical Board this March and then resigned from the board altogether in May.
The affidavit lays out an alleged scheme in which Hyatt is accused of billing Medicaid for treatment he didn’t provide. The affidavit is signed by a Medicaid fraud control unit investigator for Attorney General Griffin.
A confidential informant told the attorney general’s office that Hyatt had “little or no contact with patients” and “did not want the patients to know his name,” according to the affidavit.
The confidential informant also told investigators that Hyatt’s unit allegedly used “chemical restraints when patients were not an imminent danger to themselves or others.”
Aaron Cash, a lawyer representing dozens of clients who have sued Hyatt alleging wrongful imprisonment, told NBC News, “Our clients were relieved to learn the news about Dr. Hyatt’s arrest warrant and are thankful to Attorney General Tim Griffin and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit for their work in helping find justice for the many other victims of his scheme.”
Hyatt’s civil attorney didn’t respond to a request for comment by phone or email, and a criminal defense attorney wasn’t listed in court filings. There was no response to an email and a voice mail message sent to his practice.
An attorney for Hyatt had told Arkansas Business in August that Hyatt denied the allegations made against him and maintained his innocence: “Despite his career as an outstanding clinician, Dr. Hyatt has become the target of a vicious, orchestrated attack on his character and service. He looks forward to defending himself in court.”
In July, Northwest Medical Center told NBC News, “We believe hospital personnel complied in all respects with Arkansas law, which heavily relies on the treating physician’s assessment of the patient, including in decisions related to involuntary commitment.”
When Hyatt began running the unit in 2018, there were 29 beds. By last year, he had expanded it to 77 beds. In an interview with state investigators, Hyatt said of his interactions with patients, “I would see everybody and look in on everybody,” according to the affidavit.
But the attorney general’s office used video from 40 security cameras to track Hyatt’s time over 46 days in the unit and found that he spent 70% of his time in his office and just less than 1% seeing patients, or less than 10 minutes.
In April, the hospital agreed to pay back $1.1 million in a settlement with the attorney general’s office.
The U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of Arkansas and the Health and Human Services inspector general’s office previously confirmed an ongoing investigation of Hyatt. Agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration raided his office’s practice in May.