Two Arnold chiropractors and eight others have been accused of filing false claims to collect more than $12 million from the Social Security Administration, Anheuser-Busch InBev and insurance companies, the U.S. Attorney’s Office reported.
Chiropractor Thomas Hobbs and his wife and fellow chiropractor, Vivian Carbone-Hobbs, both of Power Med, along with two of their employees, a former AB InBev union representative and five patients, were indicted by a federal grand jury on Sept. 17 for various felony charges including conspiracy to defraud, health care fraud and theft of government funds, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Hobbs also has been indicted for being a felon in possession of a firearm after investigators found a shotgun during a Feb. 27, 2019, search of his office at 16 Municipal Drive in Arnold, court documents show.
Along with the chiropractors, Power Med employees Christian Barrera and Clarissa Pogue, former AB InBev union representative James Ralston and patients Elizabeth Guetersloh, Glenda Johnson, Sheila Huffman, Shannon Nenninger and Gary Walesky were indicted, the U.S. Attorney’s Office reported.
When a Leader reporter called the chiropractic office on Monday for a comment, the person who answered the phone hung up.
No defense lawyers were listed in court records as of Monday.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office reported that as early as 2011, Anheuser-Busch InBev employees sought help from the chiropractors to obtain Social Security disability benefits, benefits from a private company and an insurance payout of $100,000.
Hobbs and Carbone-Hobbs allegedly made patients undergo unnecessary medical treatments and tests to bolster their medical records, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The chiropractors reportedly received payments from patients, some payments for as much as $3,000, for each type of disability payment the patients were seeking. In addition, the chiropractors allegedly collected insurance payments from Blue Cross Blue Shield and United Health Care, along with payment from non-reimbursed services from the patients, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
The scheme reportedly started in 2011 and continued through 2019, the indictment said.
Hobbs allegedly misrepresented himself as a licensed medical doctor, claiming he received a medical degree in 2004 from the University of Health Sciences of Antigua in the British West Indies. However, authorities say he obtained the degree falsely claiming to have completed required clinical rotations, according to the indictment.
He also reportedly listed a number he claimed was a U.S. Medical License number but actually was an “examinee ID” number he was assigned when he started to take steps toward a medical license, the indictment said.
The conspiracy allegedly began when Hobbs developed a reputation among Anheuser-Busch InBev employees for providing fraudulent medical leave slips and helping them obtain disability payments from the Social Security Administration and private insurance carriers, including a one-time payment of $100,000 from Prudential Insurance Company of America, by exaggerating medical conditions and the inability of employees to take care of themselves, according to the indictment.
Along with the unnecessary tests and treatments, Hobbs and Carbone-Hobbs allegedly prescribed or issued canes, back braces, handicap parking tags and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) units to patients, who often didn’t use the equipment. Hobbs and his employees also allegedly “coached” patients on how to fill out forms to the Social Security Administration, the indictment said.
The recipients reportedly were seen, and at times videotaped, engaging in activities they claimed they were unable to perform because of disabling injuries, according to the indictment.
In February 2019, an undercover FBI agent made an appointment at Power Med posing as an Anheuser-Busch InBev employee. Hobbs and some of his office staff allegedly told the agent how to apply for disability coverage and was given a document entitled “Disability Package Pricing,” which listed fees for “Social Security ($4,000), short-term ($4,000), Prudential ($6,000), long-term ($4,000), psych eval. ($1,000), 2 IV packages ($2,000), form fees ($125-$175), disability plates ($125) and insurance policy ($1,500), the indictment said.
The agent paid $1,000 for his first visit and agreed to pay the other part of the down payment, which he was told was 50 percent of the package, at his next appointment, according to the indictment.
The investigation also included analysis of patient bank records, the indictment said.
Conspiracy to defraud carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or both. Health care fraud and the theft of government fund charges each carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or both. Restitution to the victims is also mandatory.
The weapons charge against Hobbs also carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or both.
The cases were investigated by the Social Security Administration-Office of Inspector General and the FBI.
Dorothy McMurtry and Tracy Berry are handling the cases for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.