Calif. Attorney, Eight Others Parked Following Auto Fraud Investigation

May 7, 2004

An attorney and eight others, including four chiropractors and an acupuncturist, have been arrested by Los Angeles County District Attorney investigators in connection with a lengthy investigation into the activities of an Alhambra law center by the Auto Insurance Fraud Task Force, the District Attorney’s office announced.

During the course of the probe into the New Asia Law Center, three teams of D.A. and DOI investigators conducted separate undercover operations starting in April 2002 and ending in February of this year. Investigators mostly posed as claimants, but one took on the role of a capper, referring two more undercover operators to the law center.

The undercover work was outlined in detail in 43 overt acts listed in a felony complaint for arrest (BA 264400) filed late Tuesday against the nine people arrested on Wednesday. The case was filed and will be prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Eleanor Bigolski of the Automobile Insurance Fraud Division.

The defendants all were charged with conspiracy to commit insurance fraud. They also were charged variously with insurance fraud, unlawful referrals, forgery and money laundering. They were being held on bail ranging from a high of $1 million to $60,000. Arraignment was scheduled for tomorrow in Division 30 of Los Angeles Superior Court.

More than 100 investigators also served search warrants Wednesday at about two-dozen businesses and homes in Los Angeles and Orange counties. Working with D.A. investigators on the large-scale operation were personnel from the DOI, California Highway Patrol, Franchise Tax Board and several local law enforcement agencies.

Authorities said an investigation into the activities of the New China Law Center began as a federal probe in May 2000. The case was turned over to the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation a month later.

The case focuses on allegations that between May 18, 2000, and April 27, 2004, the defendants submitted false insurance claims for medical work that was never done. Cappers were paid to refer “claimants” to New Asia. Claimants were referred to chiropractors or acupuncturists and insurance companies allegedly were billed for treatment never done. Settlement of claims to insurance companies was divided between New Asia and the claimants, authorities said.

The investigation centered on operations of the law center as an alleged “fraud mill” and attorney Morton Struhl, who was hired to work at the law center in 1995 by the parents of the current “officer manager,” Linda Chang. Chang took over the business from her parents. Struhl also has law offices in El Monte and Van Nuys. Chang’s cousin manages the El Monte office, called “New Beginnings.”

Investigators said that during the course of the investigation, they worked closely with representatives of two insurance companies – Progressive and Liberty Mutual – who assisted in the undercover operation.

Charged in case No. BA 264400 and arrested on Wednesday are:

Chang, 36 (dob 11-5-1967); Struhl, 57 (dob 3-8-1947); Ricky Chen, 40 (dob 3-1-1964), a chiropractor; Lanthy Hua, 53 (dob 10-25-1950), an office administrator; Huang Zhiying, 76 (dob 7-11-1927), an acupuncturist; Ergan Tyan, 37 (dob 3-25-1967), a chiropractor; Vincent Wu, 49 (dob 3-31-1964), a chiropractor; Jinlan Yao, 74 (dob 3-25-1930), who investigators said claims to be a doctor but is not licensed; and Simon Wah Hong Yau, 53 (dob 9-4-1950), a chiropractor.

Tyan and Wu, authorities said, operated out of the Aspen Health Group in Monterey Park. Chen operated out of Garfield Comprehensive Care Clinic/Pacific Chiropractic Clinic in Artesia. Huang and Yao operated out of the Beijing TMC Health Center in Rosemead. Yau operated out of Yau’s Chiropractic in Los Angeles and Hua was his assistant.

Chang is charged in 13 of the 14 counts in the complaint and faces a possible maximum sentence of 11 years and eight months in state prison. Struhl is charged in three counts and faces a possible maximum state prison term of five years. The remainder of the defendants are charged in two or three of the counts and face maximum state prison terms of five or six years, depending upon the charges, if convicted.

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