Four south Florida lawyers arrested for illegal solicitation and kickbacks
This Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent arrests of four south Florida lawyers who are alleged to have improperly and illegally obtained personal injury victims as clients and referred them to health care facilities which then paid them cash for the referrals.
The allegationsAccording to media articles and criminal charging documents, four south Florida lawyers have been charged with crimes ranging from money laundering to organized fraud and patient brokering. The lawyers are Steven Slootsky, whose record Bar address is in Boca Raton, and Adam Hurtig, Mark Spatz, and Vincent Pravato, whose record Bar addresses are in Fort Lauderdale. The lawyers were arrested on or about September 6, 2017.
The lawyers are alleged to have improperly and illegally obtained personal injury victims as clients and referred them to health care facilities which paid cash to the lawyers for the referrals. According to arrest records, the lawyers allegedly paid runners from towing companies and body shops to improperly solicit victims of motor vehicle accidents. Those individuals were allegedly then referred to clinics for medical treatment and the clinics would illegally pay for the referrals.
The arrest report states that the lawyers "were actively involved in illegal patient brokering and the unlawful solicitation of motor-vehicle accident victims throughout South Florida...after the patient was brokered to the health care facility, the facility was then able to begin treatment and bill the auto insurance companies for claims covered by the PIP benefits, which resulted in fraud on the insurance companies."
The law and Bar rulesIt is illegal under federal law for a doctor, clinic, or other health care provider to pay for patient referrals and for a "patient broker" to receive kickbacks for sending patients to a health care provider. It is also a violation of the Florida Bar Rules for an agent of a lawyer to improperly solicit a client, for a lawyer to pay non-lawyers and clinics for referrals, and for the lawyer to receive payment or a fee based upon an improper solicitation. Of course, it is certainly a violation of the Florida Bar Rules to commit a crime.
Bottom lineI have heard anecdotally that these activities have been occurring in south Florida for many years (and potentially throughout our entire state, particularly in urban areas). These lawyers are certainly presumed innocent unless and until they are proven guilty; however, if the allegations are shown to be true, this is an extremely unfortunate blight on the legal profession. On the other hand, this could potentially discourage others from doing (or continuing to do) this in the future.