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, prosecutors said. One case remains open.
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.
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.
“A lot of these people, they do this because they think they can get away with it,” D’Agostino said. News of convictions and license revocations spreads through the profession “like wildfire” and acts as a deterrent to others, he said. “They think, ‘Instead of practicing that trade, I’m going to be serving coffee at Starbucks.'”
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.
Other defendants were:
Mark Allen Tichelaar, a chiropractor with Advanced Care Sports Rehabilitation of Anaheim. Tichelaar pled guilty on Sept. 23 to one felony count of insurance fraud and one misdemeanor count of paying an illegal referral fee. He was placed on three years formal probation and sentenced to 60 days supervised electronic confinement, prosecutors said. He paid a $500 fine to the California Department of Insurance Auto Insurance Fraud Account, which is used to fund the investigation and prosecution of fraud cases statewide. He also paid back monies obtained in the case as restitution in the amount of $2,380. He faces a possible suspension of his license by the state chiropractic licensing board.
Tam Van Nguyen, a chiropractor with Century Chiropractic of Garden Grove. Nguyen pled guilty on Aug. 26 to one felony count of insurance fraud and one misdemeanor count of paying an illegal referral fee. He was placed on three years formal probation and sentenced to 120 days supervised electronic confinement. He was fined $750 and paid restitution of $3,650. His chiropractic license is suspended.
Florin Catinas, a chiropractor who rented an office at Schwartz Chiropractic in Anaheim. Catinas pled guilty on Jan. 11 to one felony count of insurance fraud.
Cantinas has agreed to testify against attorney David Gonzalez, who is accused of two counts each of insurance fraud and grand theft, at Gonzalez’s trial scheduled for May. Catinas will be sentenced after he testifies.
Keith Tran Callaway, a chiropractor with Newport Spinal Rehabilitation in Fountain Valley. Callaway pled guilty on Dec. 15 to one felony count of insurance fraud. He was placed on three years formal probation and sentenced to 180 days supervised electronic confinement. He was ordered to pay restitution of $1,250. His chiropractic license was revoked.
Ky Hoang Tran, Callaway’s office assistant, pled guilty Sept. 29 to one felony count of insurance fraud. She was placed on three years formal probation and sentenced to 160 hours of community service. She paid a $500 fine.
Lisa Marie Tran, a law office administrator with L&M Legal Services/Law Offices of Walter Martinez in Westminster. Tran pled guilty Sept. 29 to one felony count of insurance fraud and one misdemeanor count of unauthorized practice of law. She was placed on three years of formal probation and sentenced to 90 days of supervised electronic confinement. She paid a $1,000 fine and paid restitution of $5,000.
Michael Benjamin Saloman of Paramount, a chiropractor with Advanced Chiropractic Medical in Santa Ana. He was found guilty by a jury on Jan. 12 of one misdemeanor count of paying an illegal referral fee and was sentenced to one year of informal probation and ordered to pay a $1,500 fine.
Dung Tuan Le, a chiropractor with Dr. Le’s Chiropractic in Westminster, and his wife and office assistant, Rosalyn Mai. Mai pled guilty on Jan. 5, 2010 to one felony count of illegal referral. She was placed on one year informal probation and paid a $5,000 fine. Her husband, whom she kept isolated from the scheme, according to prosecutors, pled guilty to one felony count of paying an illegal referral fee. His sentencing was delayed for one year in which he agreed to surrender his license and not to practice chiropractic, prosecutors said.
Quan Hoang Tran of Huntington Beach, a chiropractor with California Pain Center in Fountain Valley. Tran pled guilty Nov. 6 to one misdemeanor count of illegal referral fee and was placed on 3 years informal probation. He paid a $2,000 fine.
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