10 convicted in chiropractor sting

Published: 2010-04-26 18:43:28
Author: ANDREW GALVIN | Orange County Register | March 3, 2010

One year later, a sting operation aimed at chiropractors accused of participating in illegal kickback or overbilling schemes has led to 10 convictions and one acquittal, according to prosecutors.

In February 2009, the Orange County District Attorney's Office announced the arrests of 12 individuals, including eight chiropractors, an attorney and three office employees. Some of the arrests resulted from an undercover operation in which investigators set up a fake lawyer's office.

In the sting, district attorney's investigators sent 248 letters to medical providers suspected of engaging in fraudulent practices or billing. The names came from a list provided by the National Insurance Crime Bureau, a not-for-profit organization that receives funding from insurance companies.

The letters outlined a proposed scheme in which the lawyer's office would refer patients to a medical provider in exchange for 30 percent of the patient's medical fees being paid as a kickback to the law office's administrators. Such fee-splitting schemes are illegal.

Of 20 individuals who responded to the letters, seven chiropractors and one chiropractor's office administrator agreed to participate in fee-splitting arrangements, prosecutors said.

Two defendants were accused of billing for more services than were actually rendered to undercover investigators posing as patients. The fake patients claimed to be suffering from soft-tissue damage from car accidents. Police and auto insurance companies cooperated in the probe, preparing accident reports and paying claims, said Demetra Lewis, a deputy district attorney who prosecuted the cases.

Since the arrests last year, the cases have worked their way through the courts. Nine defendants have pleaded guilty, while one was convicted by a jury. One case remains open.

The only acquittal came last month when Layn Ford Miller, a chiropractor with the Head, Neck and Back Pain Relief Center in Westminster, was found not guilty by a jury of one felony count of paying an illegal fee for the referral of clients. It was the second trial for Miller; the first one resulted in a hung jury.

Some of the convicted chiropractors have agreed to give up their licenses or face having them revoked. Such revocations are a key aim of prosecutors, said Joe D'Agostino, a senior assistant district attorney who oversees the economic crimes division.

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