A doctor and an attorney, the final two defendants in a 19 co-defendant case, have been convicted for their role in the largest medical fraud prosecution in the nation for recruiting thousands of healthy patients to undergo unnecessary and dangerous surgeries to fraudulently bill medical insurance companies. Attorney Roy Chester Dickson, 65, Yorba Linda, pleaded guilty to one felony count of money laundering and one felony count of grand theft with white collar crime sentencing enhancements. In the same case, Dickson was found guilty by a jury Nov. 26, 2012, of two felony counts of filing a false personal tax return and was sentenced Dec. 20, 2012, to two years and eight months in state prison and $41,629 restitution on the tax conviction. He is scheduled to be sentenced for the current convictions Aug. 8, 2014, in Department C-45, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana, and faces a maximum sentence of 14 years in state prison.
Doctor Mario Rosenberg, 66, pleaded nolo contendere Jan. 24, 2014, to two felony counts of insurance fraud and white collar crime sentencing enhancements. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison at his sentencing March 28, 2014, in Department C-45.
The defendants in the Unity case participated in a $154 million medical insurance fraud scheme that recruited 2,841 healthy people from all over the country to receive unnecessary surgeries in exchange for money or low cost cosmetic surgery. Insurance companies paid out more than $20 million over a 9-month period. The Orange County Grand Jury examined 1,054 exhibits and heard testimony from 56 witnesses over 28 days, resulting in a 70-page indictment. The indicted defendants include an attorney, accountant, three doctors, and patient recruiters known as “cappers.” The recruitment of patients, or “capping,” is illegal in California.
Andrew Robert Harnen, 59, Rosemead, Unity’s accountant, pleaded guilty to the court Aug. 16, 2013, to two felony counts of conspiracy, eight felony counts of capping or paying for patient referrals, 30 felony counts of grand theft, 30 felony counts of insurance fraud, 30 felony counts of making false and fraudulent claims, one felony count of filing a false tax return, and white collar crime sentencing enhancements for taking over $2.5 million. Harnen was sentenced to five years and four months in prison. The People advocated for a sentence of 41 years and eight months in state prison. The sentence will be served concurrent to the sentence he received Dec. 20, 2012. The defendant was previously sentenced to prison and ordered $904,780 restitution for his Nov. 26, 2012, conviction by a jury of three felony counts of filing a false tax return and six counts of failing to file tax returns.
Doctor William Wilson Hampton, Jr., 58, Seal Beach, pleaded guilty May 8, 2009, to 47 felony counts including conspiracy, insurance fraud, and capping and was sentenced to 16 years in state prison. Doctor Michael Cheeluen Chan, 68, Cerritos, pleaded guilty Aug. 4, 2011, to the court to 40 felony counts including conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, insurance fraud, aiding and abetting capping with white collar crime sentencing enhancements. He faces a sentence ranging from probation up to 28 years in state prison at his sentencing March 28, 2014, at 9:00 a.m. in Department C-45.
The Unity cappers targeted employees from businesses in 39 states who were covered by PPO insurance plans, affecting more than 1,000 employers whose employees became involved in this scheme. They arranged transportation for the patients, scheduled the surgeries, and coached the healthy “patients” on what to say. In exchange for undergoing surgery, the patients received a cash payment, usually between $300 and $1,000 per surgery, or credit toward a free or discounted cosmetic surgery.
The three doctors charged in this case participated in medical insurance fraud for performing unnecessary medical procedures on healthy people with the knowledge that the patients were being recruited. Doctors Chan, Hampton, and Rosenberg performed a total of 1,037 procedures, resulting in insurance billings exceeding $30 million for the facilities fees alone. Unity received over $5.1 million in payment as a result of the surgeries performed by these doctors. The doctors performed many of the surgeries on Saturdays and Sundays and often performed the same procedures on co-workers or members of the same household on the same day. The doctors ignored basic medical protocols such as: 1) Patients receiving surgeries on consecutive days instead of under one anesthesia; 2) Doctors not meeting the patients prior to operating; 3) Doctors not following up with patients after the procedure was completed; and 4) Doctors not obtaining necessary medical information.
Attorney Dickson went to Unity after having previously managed and represented another surgery center involved in similar illegal activities. He was sanctioned by the federal bankruptcy court for filing a fraudulent bankruptcy claim for a doctor at that surgery center. Dickson was hired by Unity to collect payments from insurance companies and patients. He helped the surgery scheme by creating fraudulent documents to disguise illegal capping activities.