In approximately 2002, Ruben Martinez, and his son, Alex Martinez, opened a medical clinic in Calexico.
In 2009, a chiropractor, Dr. Steven Rigler, moved his practice into the clinic and examined patients who were referred to him by Ruben and Alex and were receiving workers’ compensation benefits.
Dr. Rigler did not pay rent or utilities or contribute to the salaries of clinic staff. In exchange, Rigler permitted Ruben and Alex to determine the providers to whom Dr. Rigler’s patients would be referred for ancillary medical services. These ancillary service providers compensated Ruben and Alex for the referrals, and Ruben and Alex split the referral fees evenly.
In 2010, Gonzalo Ernesto Paredes was the office administrator for an entity called Advanced Radiology, owned by Dr. Ronald Grusd. Ruben Martinez entered into an agreement with Paredes, on behalf of Dr. Grusd, through which Advanced Radiology would pay Ruben a referral fee for patients referred to Advanced Radiology for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.
Thereafter, Paredes implemented the agreement with Ruben by, among other activities, receiving invoices from Ruben for patient referral fees and arranging payment of those fees to Ruben.
Paredes and Grusd were tried in federal court in 2017. Grusd was found guilty on all 42 counts that went to the jury. The jury hung on the counts against Paredes. The federal case against Paredes was subsequently dismissed by the government, without prejudice, pending his trial on state charges.
A jury in the state court trial found Paredes guilty of 35 counts of offering or delivering compensation for workers’ compensation patient referrals and 16 counts of concealing an event affecting an insurance claim.
The trial court sentenced Paredes to an aggregate term of five years in prison.
On appeal, Paredes claims that the prosecutor committed misconduct during his examination of one of the witnesses and during closing argument by suggesting the existence of facts not in evidence. Paredes also maintains that the trial court erred in excluding, as hearsay, an unavailable witness’s testimony from a prior federal trial. Finally, Paredes contends that there is insufficient evidence to support the verdicts.
The Court of Appeal affirmed the conviction in the unpublished case of People v. Gonzalo Ernesto Paredes.
The appellate court rejected his arguments one by one, and concluded that there was substantial evidence supporting his conviction.