Nurse Practitioner Arrested for Illegally Issuing Prescriptions

Jasmine Hill, of Bakersfield, was arrested and charged with nine felonies and one misdemeanor after it was discovered that she allegedly wrote prescriptions for herself for controlled substances.

Kern County Superior Court issued an arrest warrant and Hill was taken into custody on Oct. 6, 2017, by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Division of Investigation (DOI) with assistance from the Bakersfield Police Department.

Click HERE to view the full news release.


Physical Therapist and Son Charged with Insurance Fraud

San Francisco Bay Area pair also charged with grand theft and practicing medicine without a license

A licensed physical therapist and her son, who holds no license, have been charged with felonies after allegedly receiving $4.5 million from insurance companies for false claims.

Paula Skinner, of Glen Ellen, and her son Matthew Skinner, of Pleasanton, have each been charged with 34 felony counts related to crimes that allegedly occurred at their South San Francisco businesses, Pacific Occupational Health Clinic and Action Therapeutics.

The pair will appear in San Mateo County Superior Court on September 29, 2017, to set a date for their upcoming preliminary hearing.

The Skinners have each been charged with 10 counts of preparing and filing false insurance claims, 10 counts of conspiring to make fraudulent insurance claims, 10 counts of grand theft, and four counts of practicing medicine without a license. Most of the charges include enhancements because the crimes were aggravated white collar crimes with excessive losses.

The criminal complaint filed by the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office alleges that between 2010 and 2017 the Skinners committed crimes against Liberty Mutual, Traveler’s Insurance, Hartford Insurance, State Compensation Insurance Fund (SCIF) and Intercare Insurance.

Since their arrests, more insurance carriers have come forward to report additional losses. It is alleged that the Skinners billed over $15 million and received payments of over $4.5 million.

The investigation found that the Skinners co-owned and operated Pacific Occupational Health Clinic as a medical corporation. Medical corporations must be majority-owned by physicians and laypersons cannot have any ownership.

The Skinners allegedly hired physicians to act as the medical directors of Pacific Occupational Health Clinic, but the Skinners continued to run the business, including hiring and firing the medical staff and making medical decisions for patients. Pacific Occupational Health Clinic specialized in treating injured workers and billing worker’s compensation health plans.

The Skinners also allegedly referred patients to their other business, Action Therapeutics, for unnecessary physical therapy and chiropractic care.

The charges are the result of an investigation conducted by the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office, with assistance from the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Division of Investigation (DOI), and the FBI.  Investigators from DOI’s Investigation and Enforcement Unit, DOI’s Enforcement Support Unit, DOI’s Health Quality Investigation Unit and Operation Safe Medicine worked with San Mateo County District Attorney inspectors over the course of several months.

Paula Skinner’s physical therapy license is currently inactive. The Physical Therapy Board of California is reviewing the case and will take disciplinary action against her license as appropriate.

Any insurance company that believes it was a victim of the Skinners is asked to contact San Mateo County District Attorney Inspector Steve Sysum at (650) 877-5446.

 



Clovis Vocational Nurse Arrested and Charged with Theft from an Elder Adult

Licensed vocational nurse Michael Anthony Larkins, of Clovis, was arrested June 9, 2017, on one felony charge of theft from an elder adult.

Larkins’ alleged crime was discovered when a credit card company reported suspicious credit card activity to the California Department of Consumer Affairs’ (DCA) Division of Investigation (DOI).

Investigators from the Division’s Investigation and Enforcement Unit, Central Valley Field Office, learned that Larkins used a credit card belonging to a 92 year old patient who lived at the acute care center where Larkins worked.

Larkins is believed to have used the credit card to withdraw money from ATMs 11 times over a six day period in October 2016 and to make online purchases four times in the following two weeks, resulting in over $3,000 of fraudulent charges.

DOI investigators obtained surveillance video showing Larkins using some of the ATMs where the money was withdrawn.

The Fresno County District Attorney’s Office charged Larkin with one felony charge of theft from an elder adult.

DOI investigators booked Larkins into Fresno County Jail without incident and he was arraigned on June 23, 2017, when he pleaded not guilty to the charge.  His next court date is scheduled for July 28, 2017.

The Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians have completed a review of the case and are pursuing disciplinary action against Larkins’ license.



Physical Therapist Assistant Charged After Allegedly Falsifying His Timekeeping

Physical therapist assistant Arthur Oppus of Rodeo appeared in court June 14, 2017, in Contra Costa County Superior Court to set a date for his preliminary hearing after being charged with one felony count of grand theft and one felony count of obtaining money by false pretenses.

For approximately two years, Oppus had overlapping employment at two healthcare centers in San Pablo. One of his employers decided to do an investigation after learning that Oppus had allegedly been clocked in at two separate facilities one day in February 2016. Oppus told his employer that he had forgotten to clock out at one facility before going to the next. The case was referred to the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Division of Investigation and was assigned to the Enforcement and Investigation Unit’s Sacramento field office. An investigator obtained and audited Oppus’ timekeeping records at both facilities and found that between November 1, 2015, and February 10, 2016, there were 59 dates when Oppus was clocked in at both facilities resulting in 115.95 hours of overlapping hours and more than $5,000 in overpayments to Oppus.

The charges were filed by the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office. Oppus’ next court date is set for July 7, 2017, at 1:30 p.m.

The Physical Therapy Board of California is reviewing the case and will take disciplinary action against Oppus’ license as appropriate.


Unlicensed Body Sculpting Business Agrees to Pay $121K

The Orange County and Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Offices have reached a civil settlement agreement with Sculptor Body Molding, Inc. and its owners Steven and Monica Ferguson on charges that they engaged in unlawful business practices and false and misleading advertising at their health clinics.

The filing of the civil complaint was the result of an investigation conducted by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Division of Investigation after it was discovered that the defendants were advertising to perform various medical procedures. One of the procedures was called SculptorBody which the company described as a weight-loss “lipo-sculpting” program.

The business advertised that the SculptorBody treatment provided weight loss and body sculpting through the use of various medical devices and cosmetic machines including laser and ultrasound treatments. Customers were asked to pay thousands of dollars for the treatments and were told the program was approved by the Food and Drug Administration and “Members of [the] Medical Board.” Sculptor Body Molding, Inc. operated five clinics in Huntington Park, North Hollywood, Santa Ana, West Covina and Riverside. The company advertised heavily to the Spanish-speaking community.

The Division of Investigation’s Health Quality Investigation Unit, Operation Safe Medicine, conducted undercover appointments at Sculptor Body Molding and investigators were offered medical services including ultrasound weight loss treatments, oxygen injections, and “fat molding.”

These services were offered by staff referred to as “therapists” rather than by a licensed medical doctor or other licensed medical professional as required by law.  None of the weight loss treatments or health advice provided at the business were supervised by a licensed physician and neither of the Fergusons is a licensed health care professional. The civil complaint noted that the advertising and performance of these medical procedures constituted the unlicensed practice of medicine and false and misleading advertising.

As part of the settlement agreement reached on May 19, 2017, the defendants will pay $106,000 in civil penalties that will go into a fund that supports future consumer protection actions by the District Attorney’s Office.  They will also pay $15,000 in restitution to the Medical Board of California for the costs of the investigation conducted by the Division of Investigation.

The settlement includes an injunction which prevents the Fergusons from operating any business in violation of the California Medical Practice Act and from any advertising that includes false or misleading statements to consumers. They are also required to immediately sell or dispose of all ultrasound machines and other medical devices that can only legally be used by or at the direction of a licensed medical professional.


Southern California Physician Sentenced After Pleading Guilty to Drug Trafficking

Former Glendale doctor was charged federally for distributing medications illegally

A federal judge ordered that former physician Manasseh Nwaigwe, of Glendale, will serve one month of home detention and two years of federal probation after pleading guilty to one federal drug trafficking charge.

Nwaigwe, 73, was sentenced on June 1, 2017. As part of the plea agreement with the United States Attorney’s Office, Nwaigwe pleaded guilty to illegally distributing hydrocodone and had to forfeit more than $97,000 that was earned from issuing illegal prescriptions. Nwaigwe also agreed to surrender his medical license.

During an investigation conducted in May and June 2015, Nwaigwe wrote prescriptions for hydrocodone, clonazepam and promethazine with codeine to five U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration undercover investigators in exchange for cash. The prescriptions were written even though the undercover officers had no medical need for the drugs.

On March 8, 2016, the Medical Board of California filed an accusation against Nwaigwe that included allegations of sexual misconduct, prescribing without an appropriate prior exam and gross negligence.  The plea agreement with the United States Attorney’s Office resulted in the surrender of Nwaigwe’s medical license on June 1, 2016, which resolved that accusation. Criminal charges were never filed in the case of alleged sexual misconduct.

Investigators from the California Department of Consumer Affairs’ Division of Investigation, Health Quality Investigation Unit – Tustin Field Office assisted the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Torrance Police Department and Redondo Beach Police Department with the investigation of Nwaigwe.

A copy of the Medical Board of California documents can be read HERE.

To view the March 2016 Medical Board news release, click HERE.

The United States Attorney’s Office press release can be read HERE.


Chico RN Charged with Felony Elder Abuse of Patient who Died While Under her Care

Registered Nurse Allison Joann Guster, of Chico, will be arraigned on June 2, 2017, in Butte County Superior Court.  She has been charged with one felony count of elder abuse following the death of a patient that was in her care.  The charge filed by the Butte County District Attorney’s Office includes a seven year enhancement due to the age of the patient. 

Guster was a night-shift nurse, assigned to care for a patient recovering from surgery.  The investigation revealed that after the patient was found dead in her room early the next morning, Guster allegedly made false entries in the patient’s medical record to indicate that she had been monitoring the patient throughout the night.  Video surveillance showed that Guster had not been in the patient’s room for over six hours.

The case was investigated by the California Department of Consumer Affairs’ Division of Investigation, Investigation and Enforcement Unit, Sacramento Field Office.

The Board of Registered Nursing is reviewing the case and will take disciplinary action against Guster’s license as appropriate.

Click HERE to view the Butte County District Attorney’s Office press release.


Los Angeles Area Licensed Vocational Nurse Charged with Felony Grand Theft

On May 1, 2017, investigators with the California Department of Consumer Affairs’ Division of Investigation obtained an arrest warrant for licensed vocational nurse Josell McNeil-Dawkins.

McNeil-Dawkins was charged with one felony count of grand theft by embezzlement.

McNeil-Dawkins was investigated by the Division of Investigations’ Investigation and Enforcement Unit – Chatsworth Field Office after she was terminated by her employer, a home health agency.

From December 2015 to February 2016, McNeil-Dawkins was paid to provide in-home patient care for an infant.  McNeil-Dawkins failed to provide the care and instead falsified records in order to obtain payments for services she had never provided.

McNeil-Dawkins turned herself into the Los Angeles County Court on May 5 and pleaded not guilty to the charge.  She appeared in court on May 18 and her next court appearance is scheduled for July 6, 2017 at 8:30am.

The Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians is reviewing the case and will take disciplinary action against McNeil-Dawkins’ license as appropriate.