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she could receive a life sentence. Chon said Park placed her name on shell companies and bank accounts for Uwaydah and attended weekly meetings where the doctor and others dis- cussed ways to hide his assets from insurers, creditors and law enforcement. While few, if any, cases of unlicensed health practitioners

conducting medical treatments have a murder twist to them, the California fraud was anything but unique. A notorious example is Frank Abagnale, a fraudster and con

man (and subject of the film Catch Me If You Can). Abagnale, who now helps law enforcement catch fraudsters, once acted as a supervisor of resident interns at a Georgia hospital. “The posi- tion was not difficult for Abagnale because supervisors did no real medical work,” an online reference says. “However, he was nearly exposed when an infant almost died from oxygen depriva- tion because he had no idea what a nurse meant when she said there was a ‘blue baby.’ He leſt the hospital only aſter he realized he could put lives at risk by his inability to respond to life-and- death situations.” A more troubling perpetrator was Rick Van Thiel, who was accused of practising medicine without a licence in Las Vegas in October 2015. Van Thiel had prior felony convictions for robbery, attempted robbery, burglary and assault in 1992 in California, and attempted battery with substantial bodily harm in 2007 in Nevada, according to his arrest report. The ex-felon described himself “as a former porn actor and

producer who follows an anti-authority sovereign citizen phi- losophy and learned to perform surgery from online videos,” the AP reported. Van Thiel admitted in a TV interview to practising medicine without a licence for 28 years. He also claimed to have treated hundreds of patients and to have cured cancer and most types of sexually transmitted diseases. He said he has performed abortions and cyst removal surgery. One of the procedures had been posted online. “A Sept. 30 search of a trailer he used found written records suggesting he medically treated at least 23 people, had written agreements to treat 83 others, and administered injections of the blood thinner Heparin to two people,” according to AP. “Paperwork suggested he performed uterine procedures, den- tistry including at least one tooth extraction, and treatments for cancer, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, police said.” Van Thiel told an NBC affiliate that he learned to be a doctor

from YouTube, books and videos so he could ease the suffering of other people. At the time of writing he had yet to be sentenced. Another unlicensed doctor awaiting sentencing is Wilfred Griffith, 64, of Detroit. In February 2015, a US federal jury convicted him for his participation in a nearly US$4.7-million Medicare fraud scheme.

Griffith, who graduated from a foreign medical school but

had no US medical licence, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and one count of con- spiracy to solicit and receive healthcare kickbacks. According to evidence presented at trial, Griffith worked as

an unlicensed physician at Phoenix Visiting Physicians in 2010 and 2011. At that clinic, he treated Medicare beneficiaries and used prescription pads pre-signed by a physician. The evidence demonstrated that Griffith also referred Medi-

care beneficiaries to a Detroit-area home health company called Cherish Home Health Services Inc. in exchange for kickbacks. In ordering the home health services, Griffith used the names and signatures of three Detroit-area physicians to certify that the beneficiaries were housebound and needed home health services, when they did not. The problem of unlicensed individuals performing medical

procedures that require a licensed physician is such that in 2013 the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners named it as one of the “10 popular healthcare provider fraud schemes.”

Van Thiel said he learned to be a doctor from YouTube, books and videos

Charles Piper, the author of an article on the subject, wrote: “It’s a scary thought that somebody might impersonate a physician and bill for treatment, but it does happen.” Piper pointed out that the problem also exists in the mental-health community. “I’ve conducted numerous investigations in which medical doctors signed insurance claim forms showing that they had provided all the care but in reality, lesser-educated mental- health professionals actually conducted the therapy.” Piper cited a case in which he found that a psychological care

facility even hired therapists who were not trained to provide those services. If there’s a lesson for forensic accountants and other fraud

investigators it’s that many of us treat doctors and psychiatrists with considerable reverence. This is understandable, as they play such an important role in society. At the same time, however, when investigating a case that could point suspicion at a seemingly licensed practitioner, don’t assume anything about the person. Like a qualified doctor, do a thorough examination of the facts before coming to any conclusion.

DAVID MALAMED, CPA, CA•IFA, CPA (ILL.), CCF, CFE, CFI, is a partner in forensic accounting at Grant Thornton LLP in Toronto


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