Free Cosmetic Surgery Offered As Part Of Massive Health Fraud Scheme | Your money


LOS ANGELES (AP) — At a surgical clinic in the California desert, what appeared on the papers as “medically necessary” was more than a mirage. The explanations given to the insurers were as bogus as the breasts implanted in dozens of patients.

The former executive director of The Morrow Institute clinic pleaded guilty in US District Court on Friday to a health care fraud conspiracy in which she billed insurance companies between $25 million and $65 million in 2007 to 2011 for purely cosmetic procedures. She faces up to 20 years in prison.

Linda Morrow, 69, was arrested with her husband, Dr David Morrow, in Israel in 2019 after fleeing the country following their charges in the case which involved the recruitment of patients – many of them civil servants – with good insurance policies that they could exploit.

For someone looking to reduce belly fat, reduce nose size, or plump up their breasts, the deal was almost too good to turn down.

Patients were promised free liposuction, rhinoplasty, breast augmentation, and vaginal rejuvenation if they helped fake paperwork by signing “testimonial” letters or statements with false statements.

Tummy tucks were listed on the paperwork as hernia repair or abdominal reconstruction. Nose jobs have been recorded as correcting a deviated septum. The breasts were supposed to repair a “tuberous deformity of the breast”.

Linda Morrow admitted to training employees to write false documents, prosecutors said. Other documents were altered to conceal the true purpose of the operation, according to court documents.

Some patients were even paid cash as an incentive and others were not required to pay hefty co-insurance contributions.

A patient listed in court documents said she received money in return for several procedures that were billed to insurance for nearly $1 million.

In 2009, the woman went to Morrow Medical Surgery Center in Rancho Mirage for a procedure listed in the papers as necessary to reconstruct a breast deformity. In truth, she was getting breast implants.

Patients were often coerced into undergoing multiple procedures they did not seek in exchange for the enhancements they sought so the Morrows could earn more money, prosecutors said.

“If we are performing nose surgery, we could provide you with the breast, or we could provide you with a tummy tuck,” David Morrow said, according to court documents.

While major insurers such as Aetna, Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California and Cigna Health Insurance have been listed as victims, local school districts have been defrauded of more than $15 million.

Court documents mention a vice principal who underwent abdominal surgery to lose weight and a school counselor who had his nose done and underwent breast augmentation.

Spokespersons for the Desert Sands and Palm Springs Unified School Districts did not return messages seeking comment.

David Morrow, 77, who fled the country with his wife in 2017 after pleading guilty, is serving a 20-year prison sentence. He was stripped of his license as a plastic surgeon.

Judge Josephine Staton said at the time of his sentencing that David Morrow had “complete disregard” for the welfare of his patients and that his “greed knew no bounds”. She discovered that the expected loss from Morrow’s scheme exceeded $44 million.

Linda Morrow, who also pleaded guilty to contempt for being a fugitive, is set to be sentenced on July 1.

Defense lawyer Kate Corrigan said she expects her client to be jailed, but hopes it will be appropriate to his age, personal history and other considerations, on which she did not specify.

“Ms. Morrow can’t wait to put this difficult chapter in her life behind her,” Corrigan said. “She can’t wait to be with her kids again.”

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