NEW BEDFORD — A new page has turned on an old saga, after the company behind a formerly proposed methadone clinic in downtown New Bedford has been criminally charged with fraud and its CEO arrested.

Recovery Connection Centers of America and its CEO Michael Brier had previously sought a zoning variance to set up an addiction treatment clinic at 268-270 Union St., but the permit was denied in November.

The clinic would have been located next to Fall River Pawnbrokers, a sticking point for Mayor Jon Mitchell as well as many on the city council.

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RCCA, Brier, and another company employee are accused of billing public and private health insurers for services they did not provide, including 45 minute therapy sessions that in some cases lasted just five minutes.

Brier is also charged with using falsified medical information to provide addiction treatment services despite not being a doctor, as well as money laundering and obstruction.

The company operates in 14 locations in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, including in Dartmouth, Fall River, Attleboro, Taunton, and Brockton.

"I typically try to hold my opinions on legal matters until the case is adjudicated in a court of law," said New Bedford City Councilor-at-large Ian Abreu. "However, if these allegations are true, they are disturbing to say the least."

Abreu was the New Bedford City Council president when the proposal was denied.

"This latest development clearly re-confirms the opinion many of us felt as it relates to this company and its ownership group that they did not have the community’s best interest at heart with their development attempts in the heart of our downtown," he added.

"Sometimes, you just have to trust your gut instincts."

"They are a company out here to make a dollar — they weren't here to assist the city of New Bedford," agreed City Councilor-at-large Brian Gomes, who had previously argued with the mayor over a council decision to grant the pawnbrokers a residency waiver.

"They didn't come close" to opening in New Bedford, Gomes said, "because you had City Council that stood up...and many others in this community, that voiced their concerns about the location, concerns even about the operation."

"Today it's a victory for the city of New Bedford not allowing this facility to come into our city or do business in our city," he added. "I want to open the doors up to those who want to help our community, not take the dollars from our community and run."

Mayor Mitchell could not be reached for comment before publication.

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