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A psychologist apologized in a Los Angeles federal court for defrauding the federal government with inflated and fraudulent workers compensation claims.

The indictment handed down June 8, 2011 charged clinical psychologist Arnold P. Nerenberg, co-founder of the Whittier-based World Legion of Power bodybuilding organization, with seven counts of mail fraud. The indictment alleged that from June 2000 through April 2008, he submitted fraudulent paperwork to obtain compensation for psychological conditions that were never diagnosed and were reimbursed for medical expenses that were never incurred. According to court documents, Nerenberg billed the U.S. Postal Service for nearly $1 million in bogus medical fees and received about half of that. Also charged in the case are two ex-postal workers, Lois L. Washington, 47, of Inglewood, and Cetric T. Fletcher, 51, of Long Beach. Fletcher allegedly pocketed more than $200,000 as a result of the scheme, while Washington allegedly made more than $145,000.

In some instances, Nerenberg allegedly billed the government for treatment sessions with Washington and Fletcher when records indicate the psychologist was out of the area or out of the country. According to court documents, one of his “patients” was actually an HSI undercover agent posing as a postal worker for whom Nerenberg secured disability pay from the Department of Labor based upon his claimed acute fear of dogs.

Nerenberg said he was grateful federal agents caught him. In an emotional speech, the 72-year-old told the judge he overbilled patients whose costs were covered by the government so he could treat those who could not pay. After his arrest, Nerenberg said a friend told him: “It’s too bad you got caught.” He said he disagreed. “I think it’s too bad I committed the crime. I’m grateful I got caught,” Nerenberg said. “I wanted to stop what I was doing, but I was caught in an inner struggle. … I was grateful for the vigorous federal intervention.”

In an agreement with prosecutors, Nerenberg pleaded guilty to one count of fraud. Six other counts were dismissed. He was sentenced to five years’ probation with the first 12 months on home confinement and electronic monitoring. He also must pay restitution of $172,754. The two ex-postal workers indicted with Nerenberg in the 2011 case reached plea agreements and were sentenced earlier to probation and restitution.

U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder said she considered letters from Nerenberg’s family and friends in deciding his sentence. The prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Rozella Oliver, said she was persuaded that there were mitigating factors weighing in Nerenberg’s favor. She agreed home confinement was an appropriate sentence. “Dr. Nerenberg has done far more good than harm,” said his attorney, who noted that former patients were in the courtroom to support him. She said he had suffered public humiliation and would probably lose his medical license. “My remorse is profound,” said Nerenberg, who spoke of his pain when agents went to interview his former patients. “They came to me for healing, and the harm that came to them – I just couldn’t face it,” he said, his voice breaking. Nerenberg said he is turning his life around, concluding, “I have not always lived with honor, but I will die with honor.”

The judge said she was impressed with Nerenberg’s remarks and felt he was sincerely sorry. “But this is a very serious crime, defrauding the government of $172,000, whether with good or bad intentions,” Snyder said. She then imposed his sentence.

The California Board of Psychology records do not reflect any disciplinary action against Nerenberg. His license is currently active.