Category Archives: doctors and medical

2014 Top Ten Workers’ Compensation Fraud Cases

Number Value
Non-Employee Fraud Cases 9 $ 74,876,000.00
Employee Fraud Cases 1 $ 450,000.00
Total $ 75,326,000.00

Five of the top ten fraud cases in 2014 are from California. The other five cases are from Florida, Texas, Arizona, Washington and Georgia. As usual, non-employee fraud cases dominated the list and the dollar amounts are staggering, led by the $36 million over-billing case out of southern California. An emerging issue is the misclassification of workers, and we will likely see more of these cases in 2015 as enforcement steps up in this area.

1. (California) Medical Equipment Company Overbills $36 Million (3/17/14)

The owners of Aspen Medical Resources were indicted in on 49 felony counts of fraud.

The owners of Aspen Medical Resources were indicted in on 49 felony counts of fraud.

The owners of Aspen Medical Resources had all their assets seized and put into receivership by the Orange County District Attorney. They were indicted in on 49 felony counts of fraudulent overbilling of $36 million for hot-cold physical therapy machines. Although these machines retail between $250 and $500 Aspen often billed Southern California workers’ compensation claims departments thousands of dollars each time a machine was rented.


2. (California) 15 Medical Professionals Indicted in $25 Million Scheme – Small Child Dies (6/24/14)

Ahmed Kareem, one of 15 doctors accused of participating in a workers’ compensation scam.

Dr. Ahmed Kareem   is accused of participating in a workers’ comp scam.

Fifteen doctors, pharmacists and other medical professionals in Southern California were charged in a $25 million workers’ compensation scam which was linked to the death of a baby. Prosecutors alleged insurance fraud and conspiracy in the 44 count indictment which detailed that the head of a workers’ compensation claims management firm hired pharmacists to produce a pain-relief cream and then gave kickbacks to the doctors that prescribed it and conspired to submit phony claims. A 5-month old boy ate the cream and died when his mother, who was using the prescribed cream for back and knee pain, allowed her son to suck her fingers to sooth him. The next morning he was found dead and tests showed he had ingested lethal amounts of drugs in this cream.



3. (California) Lowe’s Settled Independent Contractor Misclassification Case for $6.5 Million (7/3/14)

Lowe’s misclassified its installers as independent contractors, rather than employees.

Lowe’s misclassified its installers as independent contractors, rather than employees.

Over 4,000 “Lowe’s professionals” in California are members of a class action alleging that Lowe’s misclassified its installers as independent contractors, rather than employees, thus depriving them of a variety of employee benefits, from workers’ compensation insurance coverage to 401(k) plan participation. Lowe’s, without admitting liability, recently settled the case after mediation for a sum that could be as much as $6.5 million. The plaintiffs claimed that Lowe’s retained and exercised control over their work by requiring them to identify themselves as working for Lowe’s, wear Lowe’s hats and shirts, and attend training by Lowe’s.


4. (California) Paving Company Cheats System of $4 Million (6/19/14)

Sabas & Lucia Trujillo

Sabas & Lucia Trujillo face criminal charges for workers’ comp’ fraud.

Five owners (Sabas Trujilo, Lucia Trujilo, Rick Trujilo, Laura Fitzpatrick and Alex Trujilo), operators and employees of a Corona, California based paving company are facing criminal charges for alleged wage theft, premium fraud, workers’ compensation and payroll fraud. The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office alleges that the individuals’ criminal actions enabled them to illegally obtain about $4 million. After launching an investigation, the state obtained search warrants for both companies, seizing computers and bank, payroll and other documents. The state conducted several wage audits on several hundred projects, which ultimately led to the filing of criminal charges.


5. (Florida) False Insurance Certificates Check Cashing Scheme Defrauds Insurance Company of $1 Million (11/18/14)

Arturo Santos Zuniga paid laborers cash to avoid paying workers' comp'.

Arturo Santos Zuniga paid laborers cash to avoid paying workers’ comp.

Arturo Santos Zuniga, who also went by the name David Hernandez, was busted for paying laborers in cash to avoid paying workers’ compensation insurance premiums. Zuniga paid a North Lauderdale man to create and insure a fake or “shell” company, Behar Services Incorporated, and “rented” out insurance certificates to uninsured subcontractors in South Florida. Payments to the uninsured subcontractors were made through checks to the fake company, which were then cashed at check cashing stores. Behar Services Incorporated got its insurance policy by saying it had 10 employees doing carpentry and office work with an annual payroll of $210,000. The annual premium was about $26,500. Law enforcement financial reports show that just in the months from July to October, more than $7.3 million had been cashed out at check cashing stores to Behar Services Incorporated and/or the North Lauderdale man who started the company. A $7.3 million payroll would have cost more than $1 million more than the existing policy. No estimate of lost tax revenue was given.


6. (Texas) Man to Pay $806,000 for Underreporting Payroll to Workers’ Comp Carrier (3/11/14)

Howard Douglas Whiddon of Travis County was ordered to pay $806,000 in restitution.

Howard Douglas Whiddon was ordered to pay $806,000.

Howard Douglas Whiddon was ordered to pay $806,000 in restitution to workers’ compensation insurer Texas Mutual Insurance Co. after pleading guilty to workers’ comp fraud-related charges. He intentionally misrepresented the payroll of a related company, thus lowering his premiums. Mr. Whiddon was sentenced by a Travis County, Texas court to 10 years of deferred adjudication and 160 hours of community service.


7. (Arizona) Paul Johnson Drywall Inc. Agreed to Pay $600,000 in Back Wages, Damages and Penalties to 445 Employees (5/19/14)

Paul Johnson Drywall Inc. classified its workers as “members/owners” instead of employees.

Paul Johnson Drywall Inc. classified its workers as “members/owners” instead of employees.

Paul Johnson Drywall Inc. classified its workers as “members/owners” instead of employees, which stripped them of workers’ compensation and other protections afforded to employees. The owner, Robert Cole Johnson agreed to take concrete steps to ensure that misclassification of its workforce does not occur again and to pay $556,000.00 in overtime back wages and liquidated damages to at least 445 current and former employees. The employer also agreed to pay $44,000.00 in civil monetary penalties. Investigators found that the drywall contractor violated the Fair Labor Standards Act overtime and record-keeping provisions.

8. (Washington) Summit Drywall, Inc. Ordered to Pay $550,000 in Unpaid Wages and Damages to 384 Workers (2/20/14)

The owner of Summit Drywall, Inc. was ordered to pay damages to 384 employees.

Summit Drywall’s owner was ordered to pay damages to employees.

Thomas Kauzlarich, the owner of Summit Drywall, Inc. was ordered to pay $550,000 in overtime back wages and liquidated damages to 384 current and former employees. An investigation showed that the company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime and record-keeping provisions from October 15, 2009 to April 15, 2013. The article did not report the amount of reduced workers’ compensation premiums paid.



9. (Georgia) Nurse Gets 5 Years in Prison for $450,000 Bogus Workers’ Comp Claims (8/26/14)

A VA nurse from Glenwood, GA, will serve five years in prison for mail fraud and fraudulent claims.

A VA nurse from Glenwood, GA, will serve five years in prison for mail fraud and mailing fraudulent claims.

Loretta Smith, a VA nurse from Glenwood, GA, will serve five years in prison and must repay $450,000.00 in federal funds by filing bogus workers’ compensation claims, pleading guilty to two counts of mail fraud in the mailing of fraudulent claims, in which she received more than $450,000.00. She agreed to forfeit the equivalent of $454,740.06 in cash, real estate and other property. She was also sentenced to three years probation after her release.


10. (California) Drywall Company Owners Arraigned on $420,000 in Fraud Charges (12/11/14)

The owners of a defunct drywall company, National Drywall in San Bernardino, CA, were arraigned on charges that they defrauded their workers’ compensation insurance carrier of $260,000.00 and stole $160,000.00 from their workers.


Honorable Mention – (Oregon) Uncooperative Hillsboro Businessman Convicted of $481,519 Tax Evasion – Only Gets 30 Days In Jail (9/30/14)

Stephen Nagy engaged in fraudulent schemes to evade payment of payroll taxes.

Stephen Nagy engaged in fraudulent schemes to evade payment of payroll taxes.

Stephen Nagy was the former president of Hillsboro-based S&S Drywall Assemblies. The IRS assessed the company $481,519 in federal employment taxes, penalties and interest between June 2009 and September 2010. Nagy met with the IRS and chose not to comply with the payment plan and engaged in a variety of interrelated fraudulent schemes to evade the payment of the delinquent payroll taxes. Nagy intimidated, manipulated, and threatened the loss of much needed jobs to gain the cooperation of his employees. Special agents of the IRS learned that Nagy had transferred all of S&S Drywall Assemblies income, contracts, receivables and assets to ASM Drywall, Inc. a shell company he created and placed in his sister’s name. The Oregon attorney general prosecuted Nagy in 2011 on allegations of criminal anti-trust and racketeering. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and five years of supervised probation.

For more information, contact:
Leonard T. Jernigan, Jr.
Adjunct Professor of Workers’ Compensation
N.C. Central University School of Law

The Jernigan Law Firm
2626 Glenwood Avenue, Suite 330
Raleigh, North Carolina 27608
(919) 833-0299

TENS Units No Longer Reasonable Treatment For Chronic Low Back Pain, Says CMS

Today’s post comes from guest author Charlie Domer from The Domer Law Firm.

In many workers’ compensation cases, Medicare pays medical treatment expenses for an injured worker that may otherwise be the responsibility of the workers’ compensation insurance carrier. In the past decade, workers’ compensation practitioners have become well-versed in dealing with Medicare issues and establishing Medicare Set Asides—effectively deals between the federal government (Medicare) and the work comp insurance company to cover future work-related medical care for the injured worker. 

However, Medicare does not cover all types of medical treatment expenses. Thus, certain types of medical treatment cannot be considered part of a Medicare Savings Account (MSA), but those expenses could still be the responsibility of the insurance carrier. One of those non-Medicare-covered expenses are TENS units for chronic law back pain.  On August 1, 2012, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a memorandum regarding Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) units for chronic low back pain. The new CMS policy indicated that chronic low back pain (CLBP) is “an episode of low back pain that has persisted for three months or longer; and is not a manifestation of a clearly defined and generally recognizable primary disease entity.” CMS indicated that for all workers’ compensation cases settled after June 8, 2012, use of TENS units for chronic low back pain will no longer Continue reading

Reversing A Century Of Progress – Are We Back In Upton Sinclair’s Jungle?

Many workers no longer have paid sick days.

Today’s post comes from guest author Rod Rehm from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Health Care Is Just The Beginning

At a time when a flu epidemic is exploding out of control, killing thousands of people, forty-two million Americans have no sick leave. Many of these people are lower paid, often work part time, and continue to work when ill because they can’t stay home to recover without losing their income. I am shocked and dismayed that many hard-working folk are forced to work when sick because staying home is not economically possible. Making matters even worse, these highly vulnerable workers often have no employer-provided health insurance so even serious illnesses go untreated, putting us all at a higher risk for infection from a contagious worker, like a server in a restaurant, for whom taking an unpaid day off is impossible.

…the trend toward low pay, long hours and few benefits is getting stronger.

I fear that if the current trends continue, the lives of the millions of Americans who struggle at low-paying jobs will remain miserable, desperate and be lacking in real hope. It appears that the trend toward low pay, long hours and few benefits is getting stronger. At the turn of the 20th century when Upton Sinclair wrote “The Jungle,” describing immigrants struggling in Chicago, the jobs were more physical, dangerous and just plain disgusting. However, millions of “New Jungle” workers still struggle and suffer today.

Class Warfare

After over 100 years of progress, the American middle and lower classes are under constant attack. The efforts to limit rights of workers are ongoing and supported by big business. Every day I read of measures being introduced in state legislatures to limit access to and decrease the benefits of workers’ compensation. The right to collective bargaining is being attacked as well. Local elections are overrun by anonymous innocent-sounding Super PACs funded by 21st Century versions of robber-barons who are using their wealth and power to squeeze out a few more dollars in profits to add to the tens of billions of dollars already sitting in their bank accounts. These are not job creators, they are their own personal wealth creators. Income equality is at an all-time low in the United States, and the trends are getting worse.

How can this be happening in 21st century America? How can we call ourselves civilized? Can we really allow such maltreatment of workers and disregard public health in what we call an “advanced,” “modern,” and frequently, an “exceptional” county? 

A Path Forward

We are not without hope, though. Crusaders like Senator Elizabeth Warren are working hard to reverse the trends and preserve the American Dream for future generations. But our protectors are few. We cannot assume that someone else is looking out for us. We must engage with government at the local, state and federal levels so that the voices of regular working folk are not drowned out by a cabal of rogue billionaires trying to keep score by increasing their own personal fortunes at the expense of working people. I fear that if we sit by passively, our children will all be working in the New Jungle, America will have lost its middle class, and with it, the American Dream will be a distant memory. The time to act is now. 

How To Manage Worry Without Medication

Today’s post comes from guest author Kit Case from Causey Law Firm.

For the last few weeks we’ve been talking about the very real medical dangers of worry. For injured or disabled workers, worry can add an additional and very significant burden on the body. In this post, we’ll talk about some of the ways that worry can be treated or even avoided.

Much of the time treatments are simply medications that increase GABA. Cognitive therapy is prescribed depending upon insurance coverage. Addressing the physical and mental effects of excessive worry can aid in recovery from an injury or disability and can increase levels of success in vocational retraining efforts. In rare cases, worry and anxiety can become permanent fixtures in a person’s life, and the effects of this condition can result in ratable permanent impairment. But, the greater part of lay and scientific literature lists non-medicine tips to reduce worry, fear and anxiety to a more modulated level, thereby providing some relief from this constant invader that often creates unproductive and hurtful periods in life.

Here, summarized, are six tips cited in the literature to help manage worry without medication:

  • Separate out toxic worry from good worry: Good worry amounts to planning. Toxic worry is unnecessary, repetitive, unproductive, paralyzing, frightening, and in general, life-defeating.
  • Get the facts rather than letting your imagination run away. Analyze the problem and take corrective action.
  • Develop connectedness in as many ways as you can: family, social, information and ideas, organizations and institutions. Never worry alone.
  • Touch and be touched: in addition to massage therapy, seek out hugs and laughter – being around children or family can help.
  • Be good to yourself. Exercise, eat well, get enough sleep, meditate, do yoga and be aware of over consumption of substances detrimental to your health, such as alcohol.
  • Sing, read, cry, do what you love, look for what’s good in life and don’t sweat the small stuff.

6 Tips To Combat Worrying, Stress & Anxiety

Today’s post comes from guest author Kit Case from Causey Law Firm.

Worry is increasingly pervasive in our society as insecurity about the economy and safety, nationally and personally, grows daily. Worry is compounded in the daily lives of those who are injured or disabled, as they struggle with the added burdens of medical costs and loss of income, all of which engenders a bleak outlook on their future.

“At its worst, [toxic] worry is a relentless scavenger roaming the corners of your mind, feeding on anything, never leaving you alone.”  This was the description of “worry” by Edward M. Hallowell, MD, in Worry, 1997, with a 2002 introduction. (This study is still considered the “bible” in lay literature and often quoted in scientific research.) Long ago, Dr. Charles Mayo said, “Worry affects circulation, the glands, the whole nervous system and profoundly affects the heart.” Indeed, worry appears to be, at worst, of genetic origins, and to a lesser degree a learned or environmental response.

Hallowell defines worry as two types: toxic worry and good worry.  He likens toxic worry to a virus, insidiously and invisibly attacking you and robbing you of your ability to work, your peace of mind and happiness, your love and play. On the other hand, good worry, or adaptive worry, is necessary to avoid real danger and life-threatening situations.

Worry is categorized as part of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in most lay and scientific literature. The National Institute of Mental Illness (NIMH) defines GAD as people who go through the day filled with exaggerated worry and tension, even though there is little to provoke it. NIMH literature states that people with GAD anticipate disaster and are overly concerned about health issues, money, family problems or difficulties at work. GAD is diagnosed when a person worries excessively about everyday problems for at least six months. Worry, as part of GAD, is commonly treated with medication and cognitive therapy.

The everyday worry of the disabled or injured worker is direct, with anxiety and fear over money, physical abilities, medical care, vocational options, housing, food, and family disintegration. It does prey upon so many, compounding their physical health problems and environmental lives.

The physical reactions to excessive fear and anxiety (worry) initiate a chain or cascade of pathological events by stimulating the amygdala area of the brain (fight/flight response), releasing neurotransmitters to the cortex. There, the fear or anxiety, whether real or imagined, is analyzed in detail and the analysis is returned to the amygdala where, in normal situations, the fear response is shut off by amino-butyric acid (GABA). GAD worriers may not have high enough GABA levels to shut off this pathway. Consequently, there are constant marked secretions of glucocortocoids and catecholamines that increase blood sugar levels. Marked levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine dilate blood vessels in skeletal muscles and other adrenergic (adrenal) stimulations that in turn create modifications in breathing, increased temperatures, sweating, decreased mobility of the stomach, bowels, and intestines, constrictions of the sphincters in the stomach and intestines.

The scientific literature is now implicating constant stress, such as constant work stress or toxic fear and anxiety, in causing large weight gains in the midriff area which can greatly exacerbate orthopedic injuries, particularly of the spine or knees, and can lead to increased incidences of diabetes and cancer.

Simply said, constant fear and anxiety result in debilitating amounts of stress hormones like cortisol (from the adrenal glands) and hormones that cause blood sugar levels and triglycerides (blood fats) to rise significantly. This process, if not shut off or modulated, can cause premature coronary artery disease, short-term memory loss, digestive problems, and suppression of the natural immune system. Continue reading