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Psychiatrist accused of overbilling

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina » A psychiatrist who has spent a lifetime traveling the world, meeting famous people and giving spiritual awareness lectures has been arrested in Argentina on charges of falsely billing $1 million in health insurance claims in Hawaii, authorities said Tuesday.

Dr. Carlos Livio Warter, 61, was arrested Monday afternoon at his home in a wealthy Buenos Aires neighborhood, where he had been working as a psychiatrist and leading seminars based on his latest book, “Pathways to the Soul.”

He will be extradited to the United States, said Osvaldo Magnoli, chief of fugitives investigations for Interpol in Argentina.

A Chilean-born naturalized U.S. citizen, Warter traveled regularly to Argentina, Chile and Hawaii, FBI special agent Tom Simon said in Honolulu.

Simon said FBI agents working out of the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires were coordinating with their Argentine counterparts on the extradition.

Warter says on his website that he has spent 30 years “journeying between the fields of western medicine and the deep exploration of spiritual practices from around the world,” doing his residency at Harvard University’s Children’s Hospital and later lecturing at Esalen Institute.

He has written dozens of books in Spanish and English, and his site shows photos of him meeting with world leaders from Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to the Dalai Lama, Pope John Paul II, Brazilian soccer legend Pele and former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. The site says his nonprofit groups include the World Health Foundation for Development and Peace, Heartnet International and Gota de Miel (Drop of Honey), which aided orphanages in Latin America.

A federal grand jury indictment accuses Warter of knowingly sending about $1 million in inflated bills to Medicaid, the Hawaii Medical Service Association and TRICARE, a federally funded program that provides care to military personnel. It alleges he overbilled for sessions that didn’t last as long as he claimed, and even billed for sessions when he wasn’t physically in the state, pocketing more than $530,000 to which he wasn’t completely entitled.

In addition to the federal indictment, Warter was charged in August 2009 with 37 state felonies accusing him of Medicare fraud, each punishable by up to five years in prison. This February he voluntarily surrendered his medical license for failure to comply with professional conduct laws, said Connie Cabral, executive officer of the Hawaii Medical Board, which is attached to the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

Argentine police said Warter, who is married and has four children, has been living for more than a year in Argentina. A woman answering his phone in Buenos Aires refused to comment Tuesday.

Jim Carter, listed by Warter as a U.S. contact for his seminars, said the arrest “has got me flabbergasted.”

“Everything I’ve done with him has been on the up and up, and he’s made a big positive impact on my life. I’m sure a lot of other people will say the same thing,” said Carter, who lives in the Lansing, Mich., area and began following Warter’s advice years ago.

“His day job is psychotherapy, and the other stuff he does is life coaching, with a spiritual bent,” Carter said. “A lot of his work is showing people how their ego is interfering, and to get that out of the way so their essence can grow.”

Associated Press writers Almudena Calatrava in Buenos Aires and Jennifer Kelleher and Mark Niesse in Honolulu contributed to this report.

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