Tag Archives: Chiropractor

Operation Sledgehammer Arrests another Staged Accident Recruit

Ricardo Pargas, 49, of West Palm Beach was arrested on Wednesday, September 24, 2014 for his participation in a staged auto crash ring, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

Acting on information from Allstate Insurance and the FBI, the Florida Division of Insurance Fraud discovered that Pargas and his wife had participated in a staged car crash while acting on directions from the fraud scheme’s ringleader, Alien Moya, 30, also of West Palm Beach. The couple, recruited by Moya, was paid $2,000 each for their part in the crash. As of this time it appears that Pargas’ wife has not been charged.

The crash at issue occurred on January 11, 2010 in West Palm Beach. Pargas and his wife were driving in a 2005 Ford pickup truck when they were intentionally rear-ended by a 1998 Chevrolet pickup driven by another participant in the scheme. A sheriff’s deputy responding to the scene reported that there were no injuries and that both drivers drove away.

Two days later, however, Pargas was being treated for injuries from the crash at Karow Chiropractic Center in West Palm Beach. The treatment center billed the insurance company $34,065, of which the company paid $19,386.25.

When interviewed by federal agents at his home on April 12, 2012, Pargas admitted to having been recruited by Moya to take part in the scheme. Pargas and his wife were instructed by Moya to undergo treatment at the Karow Chiropractic Center following the crash. They each visited the clinic twice a week, where they reportedly received massages and other treatments. Investigators pieced together their case against Pargas over two years, and he was booked into Palm Beach County Jail on Wednesday on a staged accident fraud charge.

Karow Chiropractic Center’s owner was convicted in April 2014 of conspiracy to commit mail fraud in connection with the staged crash.

Moya was arrested earlier this year by the FBI on separate federal charges of theft of an interstate shipment and selling stolen property after he and an accomplice were caught stealing the contents of a Walmart truck that they were hired to drive to a distribution center. At the time of the trucking theft in early February, Moya was out on bond while awaiting sentencing for his role in the Operation Sledgehammer staged accident fraud, according to an earlier Sun Sentinel article.

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Eleventh Circuit Dismisses PIP Case Involving EMC and Massage Therapy

A class action suit filed by plaintiff Accumed Chiropractic against Progressive Select Insurance was dismissed on July 31, 2014 by Circuit Court Judge Antonio Arzola. Judge Arzola concluded that the action was inappropriate for class action treatment.

The suit was brought on behalf of plaintiff itself and two putative classes. The first class was to be anyone who was denied payment by Progressive under PIP or MedPay insurance coverage where Progressive’s denial was based on an assertion that an Emergency Medical Condition for the insured was not established.

The second class was to be defined as anyone whose PIP or MedPay claim was denied because the health care service was for massage therapy or acupuncture. Plaintiff sought both declaratory relief and damages for breach of contract.

Plaintiff stipulated at the hearing that it did not have standing to sue for MedPay benefits. As for the PIP claims, Judge Arzola found that the “necessary and individualized questions associated with the underlying PIP claims of the class will predominate in this Action.” As a matter of law, therefore, plaintiff’s case could not proceed as a class action, and the complaint was dismissed without prejudice.

The case is Accumed Chiropractic & Wellness Center, Inc. v. Progressive Select Insurance Company, Case No. 13-CA-029396 (Fla. 11th Cir. Ct., July 31, 2014). Click on the link to view the court order.

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State Farm Granted Summary Judgment in Lake Worth Chiropractic PIP Benefits Case

On July 14, 2014, the 15th Judicial Circuit for Palm Beach County affirmed a lower court decision granting summary judgment to State Farm in a claim for PIP benefits brought by Lake Worth Emergency Chiropractic Center.

In the underlying case, Judge Bosso-Pardo granted defendant’s Motion for Final Summary Judgment, entering final judgment for the defendant, State Farm, upon finding that the pre-suit demand letter, required by Florida Statute 627.736(10) (2010), was insufficient in that it demanded payment for services that were never billed to State Farm.

Judge Bosso-Pardo found that the Plaintiff’s “withdrawing” the unbilled service after suit had commenced was insufficient to cure the defect and that the demand letter requirements under Florida Statute 627.736(10) must be strictly construed and adhered to by those seeking to initiate litigation against a Florida PIP insurer.

The Circuit Court affirmed this decision, concluding that section 627.736(10) requires strict compliance and that, in this case, the demand letter did not strictly comply with the PIP statute requirements. As such, Lake Worth Emergency Chiropractic Center failed to satisfy the condition precedent to filing its law suit, and the trial court was correct in awarding final summary judgment in favor of State Farm.

The case is Lake Worth Emergency Chiropractic Center v. State Farm, in the Fifteenth Judicial Court for Palm Beach County, Case No. 502012AP000034XXXXMB. Click on the link to read the court opinion.

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Attorney Fee Conflict Settled in Advanced Chiropractic v. UAIC

On May 29, 2014, the Florida Supreme Court issued a decision settling a conflict over the timeliness of filing for attorney’s fees.

The case originated in Broward County with an action filed by Advanced Chiropractic against United Automobile Insurance Co. (“UAIC”) for PIP benefits. During the course of the action, the attorney for Advanced moved offices and filed a change of address with the Clerk of Court. Two months later, Advanced and UAIC entered into a settlement agreement in which UAIC agreed to pay Advanced’s attorney’s fees. The trial court judge subsequently entered an order of dismissal in the case.

Advanced’s attorney never received a copy of the dismissal because the Clerk of Court failed to update its records concerning the address change. Once he learned of the dismissal, months later, counsel for Advanced filed a motion for attorney’s fees. Because the motion was filed past the mandatory 30-day deadline, the attorney moved to vacate the order of dismissal based on excusable neglect due to the court’s failure to update its records.

In a hearing on the motion to vacate the dismissal, the attorney for Advanced and an employee of the Clerk of Court both filed unsworn statements. The county court found that Advanced had established excusable neglect, vacated the order of dismissal, and allowed Advanced’s attorney to file a motion for attorney’s fees.

UAIC appealed the decision to the circuit court, contending that counsel for Advanced had not established excusable neglect. The circuit court held that, because the statements from the attorney and the Court’s employee were unsworn, there was not sufficient evidence to support the finding of excusable neglect. The circuit court therefore reinstated the order of dismissal.

Advanced appealed to the Fourth District, asserting that the circuit court had failed to apply the correct legal standard. The Fourth District concluded that Advanced had been denied due process and therefore quashed the decision of the circuit court.

Advanced then filed a motion for attorney’s fees. UAIC opposed the motion on the basis that it was untimely pursuant to the FL Rules of Appellate Procedure. The District Court dismissed UAIC’s argument based on the Rules of Appellate Procedure, but nonetheless denied the motion for attorney’s fees on the basis of the FL Supreme Court’s 1991 holding in Stockman v. Downs, which requires parties to plead entitlement to attorney’s fees.

The Fourth District held that, pursuant to the Stockman decision, the request for attorney’s fees must be made in the pleadings which, in this case, would be the petition, the response, or the reply. Because Advanced did not request fees in the petition or reply, the district court held that the motion was untimely. The state Supreme Court then agreed to review the case to consider whether the Fourth District misapplied the Stockman decision.

In the Stockman case, the Supreme Court addressed whether a prevailing party could raise entitlement to attorney’s fees for the first time by motion after trial. The Court held that a claim for attorney’s fees based upon a contract or statute is waived unless it is made in the pleadings. The Court explained that the fundamental concern is that the parties have notice of the claim as it may affect the decisions of the parties with respect to the case.

In distinguishing Stockman from this case, the Court noted that Stockman involved a request at the trial level and that the primary concern—lack of notice—is not implicated in the case at hand. Since Advanced requested attorney’s fees in both the county and circuit courts,   UAIC could not contend unfair surprise when Advanced again claimed entitlement to attorney’s fees. Consequently, the Court quashed the decision in the court below and remanded to the district court for a determination of the amount of attorney’s fees to which Advanced is entitled.

The case is Advanced Chiropractic And Rehabilitation Center, Corporation vs. United Automobile Insurance Company, Supreme Court of Florida, Case No. SC13-153, May 29, 2014.

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Pensacola Chiropractor Sentenced in Insurance Fraud

More than six years in prison and 10 years probation was the sentence handed down to a Pensacola chiropractor who was discovered pressuring patients to overstate their injuries in order to receive large insurance settlements, according to a news release from the Florida Department of Financial Services.

Dr. Russell Dominick, 54, was found guilty of racketeering and grand theft after a clandestine operation exposed his deceptive scheme. An undercover officer posing as a patient was encouraged by Dominick to exaggerate injuries in order to inflate the payment received by insurance.

The Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud began to covertly look into the issue after it received a complaint about Dr. Dominick. Similar experiences were then reported by other patients who also received advice from Dr. Dominick to embellish their injuries.

“Insurance fraud places a financial strain on hard-working Floridians through increased insurance premiums,” said Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater. “I am extremely proud of our investigators for working so diligently with our law enforcement partners to put an end to this illegal operation.”

Dominick was arrested by the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Department of Health assisted with the investigation. The State Attorney’s Office for the First Judicial Circuit prosecuted the case.

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Florida Chiropractor Pleads Guilty in $3 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

Chiropractor Michael Kelly Miller recently pleaded guilty in a Kansas City, Mo. federal court on one count of health care fraud after waiving his right to a grand jury.

Miller, 59, is the former owner of Waldo Rehabilitation Health & Wellness center in Kansas City, Mo. He now operates the Miller Clinic for Optimal Health in Temple Terrace, Fla., located outside of Tampa in northeastern Hillsborough County.

The Waldo clinic charged Medicare more than $3 million for nerve block injections between 2009 and 2011, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri, and received $879,582 in reimbursements. Miller acknowledged in court that the treatments were false or fraudulent, because they were not medically necessary.

According to his firm’s current website, Dr. Miller is a chiropractor, acupuncturist, and naturopathic physician. He is also a Fellow of the Brazil American Academy for Aging and Regenerative Medicine.

Miller faces a jail term of 15 to 21 months in federal prison, and is ordered to repay Medicare restitution of approximately $880,000. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for a future date.

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Chiropractors in $2.3 Million PIP Insurance Fraud Scheme will Face RICO Charges

A federal judge ruled that the chiropractors who were allegedly behind a $2.3 million ploy to defraud an insurance company must face charges for violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices.

In July 2012, GEICO Insurance Company filed a lawsuit against two Orlando-based clinics—KJ Chiropractic Center LLC and Wellness Pain & Rehab Inc.—in addition to their two founders and a number of co-conspirators, known as “runners.” These runners helped perpetrate the suspected scam by exploiting willing third-party participants who faked accidents and injuries.

According to an article in Courthouse News Service, U.S. District Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell said in her order that the fraudulent PIP claims resulted in more than $2.3 million in unwarranted insurance benefits and emerged from:

  • Staged accidents;
  • Real accidents in which claimants received treatment at clinics even though they were not truly injured; and
  • Real accidents in which claimants incurred some injuries, but received treatments that were pre-programmed, unnecessary, excessive and unlawful.

GEICO charged that the defendants advanced their unlawful plot by paying “anyone who referred accident victims to the clinics, offering cash directly to patients who agreed to accept unnecessary chiropractic treatment.” The insurance company also claimed the clinics provided treatment that was not in the best interest of patients because its sole intent was to maximize profits, the article said.

The U.S. District Court for Florida’s Middle District, Orlando Division, adopted Judge David Baker’s full recommendations made in October 2013 to deny the defendants’ motion to dismiss a second amended complaint on all but one count.

Judge Honeywell Edwards said she felt that GEICO adequately supported its argument with “factual allegations to state plausible claims for relief. As such, the court agrees with the Magistrate Judge that GEICO’s claims are sufficiently pled.”

The case is GEICO v. KJ Chiropractic Center LLC et. al., U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Case No. 6:12-CV-1138-ORL-36-DAB. Click on the link to read the complaint.

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Fort Myers Chiropractor Arrested for PIP Fraud Scheme

A licensed chiropractor, who was working at Gate Parkway Diagnostics Center (GPDC) in Fort Myers, Fla., was recently arrested for scheming to defraud several insurance carriers, according to an announcement by Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

Investigators from the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud found that Harold John Pompey, 68, was completing false paperwork to support fraudulent claims being filed for PIP insurance benefits to be paid to GPDC.  He was charged with one count of a first degree scheme to defraud and six counts of false and fraudulent insurance claims. Bond was set at $210,021.

According to the announcement, GPDC was apparently operating as a legitimate diagnostics center. Test results made at the center then provided the means for other PIP clinics in Jacksonville to commit fraud, including a clinic that Pompey worked at previously, One Touch Therapy Corporation.  This network also opened connections for others to participate in similar schemes to defraud insurance companies.

A search warrant uncovered that GPDC filed for 514 patients from October 2011 through December 2012, at which time Pompey was listed as the designated chiropractor on more than 300 of those files.

In order to justify massage therapy or chiropractic care, participants in the scheme had to demonstrate that they were suffering from legitimate injuries, which often required a radiological diagnosis. Tests performed at GDPC allowed for Pompey and others to make the false diagnoses and cash into the $10,000 available under a participant’s PIP coverage. Participants in the scheme were coached by recruiters, who instructed them on how to fake their ailments without getting noticed by the insurance company.

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