Six Minneapolis-area chiropractors are among 21 people charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud in what federal authorities described Wednesday as separate schemes that defrauded auto insurance companies out of more than $20 million.
More charges against more chiropractors are likely, the U.S. attorney for Minnesota, Andrew Luger, said at a news conference.
Luger said the chiropractors allegedly billed auto insurance companies for treatments that people who had been in accidents didn’t need and, in some cases, services they never provided. The chiropractors allegedly paid illegal kickbacks to “runners” to recruit accident victims, and some of the “runners” in turn paid kickbacks to patients to ensure that they kept coming back for unnecessary appointments, he said.
The other defendants are accused of working as “runners.” They typically made around $1,000 per patient they brought in and sometimes worked with patients to stage phony accidents so there would be police reports to back up their claims, he said.
“Kickback upon kickback, fraudulent billing, staging automobile accidents, this was the business model for these doctors,” Luger said.
The indictments name the chiropractors as Preston Forthun, Angela Schulz, Huy Ngoc Nguyen and Adam Burke. They were arrested Wednesday. Chiropractors Marilyn Comes and Darryl Hummeny were charged separately in a type of document that usually means a plea deal is in the works, and were not arrested.
Online court records didn’t immediately list attorneys for most of the defendants, who were making their first court appearances Wednesday. But attorneys listed for Burke, Comes and Hummeny did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.
Luger said the defendants took advantage of an opportunity for fraud in Minnesota’s no-fault auto insurance system, which requires that policies cover at least $20,000 worth of medical bills for people injured in accidents. While some runners worked for more than one chiropractor, he said, the alleged conspiracies operated independently from each other. He expects more chiropractors will be charged.
“We know that there are many more out there committing the exact same conduct,” he said. “Our investigation does not end today, this is only the beginning, and you can expect more charges in the future.”
Insurance fraud is not a victimless crime, said Richard Thornton, special agent in charge of the Minneapolis FBI.
“The reality is every single person in Minnesota who owns a car is paying more for their car insurance because of this type of fraud,” he said.