I hope that the following story from thw Washington Examiner, has the participants singing together “Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to prison we go”.
The FBI had been told that there was a Maryland lawyer that was recruiting people to fake injuries from car accidents. So, the FBI and the Washington, D.C. Police Department decided to plant the seed and see if they could catch the lawyer, and anyone else that was working on the scheme with him.
The seed was an accident report. As part of the undercover operation, a fake accident report was put into the police department’s system. Then, an FBI agent posed as the driver who had been rear-ended in the fake report.
A day after the report was planted, the special agent received a phone call from an Alba Bustamante, who said that he had obtained the accident report and wanted to refer him to a lawyer, Ryan A. Lahuti. I’m guessing the undercover sting said, “Here we go” because that was the lawyer that they were targeting.
The driver (undercover) said he wasn’t injured. Bustamante said that “it didn’t matter”. He explained that he just needed to give the lawyer’s card to a chiropractor, and tell the chiropractor that his back and neck hurt. He then told the undercover agent that by doing this, he could end up “pocketing 4 or 5 thousand dollars”.
The agent went to the chiropractor and presented the card. He advised that he felt no pain, no dizziness and did not suffer from headaches or loss of sleep.
The chiropractor told him that really, his back was out of alignment and that he could get treatment, and that insurance would cover it. The chiropractor’s assistant told the “patient” to get 25 visits of treatment, to get the maximum amount of insurance money.
It’s here where I have to break from the story. It torments me. It’s conduct and news stories like this that make it hard for the truly injured to receive proper care and hold the responsible party accountable for their medical bills.
The ending of this story is that Bustamante and the lawyer are being charged with wire fraud and health fraud. The chiropractor and his assistant are facing charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Their mailing of the bills and records, I guess; based on the statements of no injury, amount to the criminal charges.
One final thought. The words “insurance” and “scam” make it worse for everyone. Rates go up; It contributes to the bad image of lawyers and it ultimately can effect the jury system. That’s why it’s important to get this kind of story out. It doesn’t make injury lawyers look good, but we also shouldn’t hide behind the reality that there are unsavory characters that are doing this kind of fraud.