Medical practices don’t stay in business very long if they don’t have any patients. A Thief River Falls, Minnesota chiropractor thought it would be a great idea to hold promotional events to attract prospective clients by handing out free food and drink, prizes and gift certificates. (Would you pick a doctor based on what kind of prizes are offered?) In a carefully orchestrated identity theft scheme, today’s fraudster used the identities of more than 200 prospective patients to bill multiple insurance companies for $3.1 million in services that were never provided.
The Thief River Falls chiropractor, who carried out his identity theft scheme over two years, was determined to maximize the volume of patients coming through his practice by giving away free food and drink, prizes and gift certificates to current and prospective clients who visited his Minneapolis practice. One of these promotional events was called “ValenSpine’s Day” and was held on February 13, 2014. (While he should receive an “A” for coming up with a clever name for his promotional event, he gets a big fat “F” for his fraudulent scheme.)
At the “ValenSpine’s Day” event, he treated 219 patients and billed a variety of insurance companies for 641 services. One of those services included treatment on a “wobble chair,” or device that helps to develop core strength. The “treatment,” which was supposed to be provided under the direct supervision of a healthcare provider, lasted at least eight minutes. The somewhat ingenious chiropractor provided lots of “wobble chairs” in his waiting room so his patients would sit in them while waiting to be called back for their treatments. (That right there shows you how “wobbly” his identity theft scheme was.) In total, the chiropractor caused the submission of more than $3.1 million for treatments that were either not provided or were overbilled. (He pocketed $1.1 million from this wobbly identity theft scheme.)
The 36-year-old chiropractor from Thief River Falls pleaded guilty to identity theft and was sentenced to one year and three months behind bars. This thief’s plan to increase volume for his practice backfired. (Lesson learned? If you want more volume, try less fraud.)
Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on a Department of Justice press release, “Thief River Falls Chiropractor Sentenced To 27 Months In Prison For Wire Fraud and Identity Theft,” released on June 18, 2019.
United States Attorney Erica H. MacDonald today announced the sentencing of STEVEN RICHARD WISETH, 36, a Thief River Falls chiropractor, to 27 months in prison for wire fraud. WISETH, who pleaded guilty on January 17, 2019, was sentenced today before Judge Patrick J. Schiltz in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In addressing WISETH’s fraud scheme and other similar schemes that have occurred within the chiropractic profession, Judge Schiltz stated, “There seems to be a lot of rot in that profession and deterrence seems to be much needed,” and further stated that WISETH’s fraud was a “part of his routine business practice.”
According to his guilty plea and documents filed in court, from approximately March 2013 through April 2015, WISETH, a Doctor of Chiropractic and owner of Health Quest Family Chiropractic (“Health Quest”) in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, orchestrated a scheme to defraud health insurers by submitting and causing the submission of false and fraudulent claims for chiropractic services.