Earlier this month, an eyebrow-raising story emanated from of the State of Oregon. It situates a manager of an eye clinic and his 41 year-old son as health insurance fraudsters. The twist to the story, however, is the fact that the son was apparently victimized by his father – a “puppet” in his parent’s scheming ways. Or was he? The other side of the story suggests that Anthony Curtis Neal suffers from autism spectrum disorder and was manipulated by his dad.
The story has even more twists and turns. As Maxine Bernstein reports on OregonLive.com, Dr. Dean Elton Neal died from a stroke in May of 2015 at the age of 80. As a result, he was clearly not available to defend himself in court. Therefore, his son will be paying the price on his behalf. The younger Neal has is expected to spend about two and a half years in federal prison for his role in cheating public and private health insurance plans and the Internal Revenue Service out of $2.5 million.
The fraudulent practices, reports Bernstein, took place over the course of seven years at 20/20 Eye Care in Gresham, Oregon. While running the eye clinic with his late father (who passed away before charges could be laid against him), Neal submitted false bills to public and private health benefit programs and also conspired to defraud the United States through a family scheme to evade paying federal income taxes. He is also required to pay $2.5 million in restitution.
Among the fraudulent actions taken by the father and son team at the eye clinic were unnecessary testing on patients and double-billing patients for certain tests. And although Neal pleaded guilty to the charges last summer, his defense lawyer, Assistant Federal Public Defender Thomas Price contended that he wasn’t acting on his own will, due to his medical issue.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Uram didn’t buy that argument at all. He stated that Neal was fully aware of the fraudulent schemes and was a partner with his father in carrying them out. “The prosecutor cited emails between the son and another ophthalmologist who worked at the small practice and had complained about unethical billing practices before he was fired,” reveals Bernstein.
She also reports that the Neals put the revenue they generated from their schemes into a bank account of a shell company called Oculus Inc. With the funds, they started construction on a multimillion-dollar mansion complete with a helipad and tennis pavilion in Damascus, Syria. The 35,000-square-foot-house was intended for the younger Neal and his wife but was to include a heated tunnel that lead to his father’s home 75 yards away. The house was never finished.
Neal’s defense lawyer, however, painted a picture in court that told a very different story of the relationship between his client and his client’s father. “Price told the judge that Dr. Neal wreaked havoc on his family, abused his wife and his disabled son, was ‘obsessed by his image’ and driven by enormous ego and greed,” writes Bernstein, “When Anthony Neal reported that he was raped as a child by an acquaintance, the father refused to report the sexual assault to police because he was concerned it would be ‘bad for his image.’”
Nevertheless, U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones determined that the younger Neal was more than capable of knowing right from wrong. He “sentenced Neal to one year and one day in federal prison, meaning he will receive credit for time served and likely serve 15 percent of that followed by three years of supervised release,” Bernstein reports, “He was ordered to pay $1.7 million in restitution to Medicare, Care Oregon and several private health insurance companies and $817,378 to the IRS.”
Indeed, this is one of the more complicated cases we’ve come across. If you’re an attorney trying a complicated case against a perpetrator of health care fraud, the team of clinical experts at Allegiant Experts may be able to help you. For more information about how we can be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to call us at 407-217-5831 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.