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Coral gables patient brokers indicted a second time

Posted on March 08, 2010 3:00 AM EST

A South Florida couple was indicted again in federal court for allegedly stealing medical records and selling them to local personal injury attorneys. In the first indictment, Reuben Rodriguez and Maria Victoria Suarez were accused of paying a Jackson Memorial Hospital Employee for records of patients recently involved in automobile and slip and fall accidents. Once they obtained the records, they purportedly sold them to local personal injury law firms who would turn file civil claims on behalf of the patients. The records included names, addresses, telephone numbers and medical reports. The attorneys allegedly paid them hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks once the civil cases were resolved. Before the second indictment was handed down, both defendants were charged with identity theft and fraud in federal court. It is unclear whether the Miami criminal lawyers on the first case will represent their clients on the second case.

As a result of the investigation, several personal injury lawyers have been under the microscope. To date, none of the lawyers have been divally charges, but the Florida is looking into potential ethical violations. The Florida Bar permits several divs of advertising such as the internet, television, newspapers and the Yellow Pages, however, the rules prohibit the direct soliciting of clients by phone or mail. Furthermore, lawyers are prohibited from sharing fees with non-lawyers. If the Florida Bar can substantiate such a claim, counsel could be suspended or even disbarred from the practice of law.

Rodriquez originally received a bond at his initial pre-trial detention hearing, but has since had his bond revoked for allegedly tampering with witnesses. He was scheduled to enter a guilty plea in federal court in January on a conspiracy charge, but backed out of the deal at the last minute. He is scheduled to appear in court this week on the new indictment charging him with identity theft, computer fraud and conspiracy. Suarez has remained out on bond since the pendency of her old case, but it is not clear whether the prosecution will seek to have her detained pursuant to the new charges. The JMH technician that sold the records for $1,000.00 a month has since entered a guilty plea and is currently serving 10 months in prison.

The new indictment accuses the defendants of paying an employee of American Medical Response, an ambulance company, for records of patients being treated and transported by the company. AMR is based out of Colorado and has allegedly terminated the employee involved in the case. The investigation allegedly revealed that the defendants made at least four payments to the AMR employee in increments of $1,000.00 to $2,000.00. Again, they allegedly sold the records to attorneys in order to pursue personal injury claims. Prior to the second indictment, both defendants were facing prison sentences. The second indictment certainly subjects them to significantly more prison time.

Coral Gables Couple Again Accused of Selling Patient Records, The Miami Herald, March 8, 2010.
Categories: Fraud