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9 posts from April 2012

04/30/2012

Dear contractor: Please return the $15 million, pretty please

The U.S. Department of Energy paid a $15 million incentive fee to a contractor that produced waste processing vessels to handle high-level nuclear waste. When a vessel turned out to be defective, the department demanded return of the $15 million. But it didn't follow up, and the contractor, Bechtel National, did not return the money, according to a new report from the department's watchdog. The scary thing is the risk to workers from defective vessels - and to others near the Washington plant. Here's what the inspector general had to say: "Premature failure of these components could potentially impact safety, contaminate large portions of a multi-billion dollar facility and interrupt waste processing for an unknown period of time." - Lois Norder

Arlington woman indicted in mortgage fraud scheme

A federal grand jury has indicted Patience Lavon Jackson of Arlington and two other people for conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, according to recently unsealed court documents. According to the indictment, the three recruited people to act as buyers of homes in North Texas, and then fraudulently submitted false statements on loan applications. Then the three submitted fake invoices for construction upgrades, repairs or consulting services for the properties that were never done, and eventually let the properties go into foreclosure, according to the indictment. Mortgage lenders lost $2 million in the scheme, court documents allege. Indicted along with the Arlington resident were Anthony Davis Jr. of Mesquite and Charlie M. Smith Jr. of California.   - Lois Norder

Bedford attorney disbarred, Fort Worth, Weatherford attorneys suspended

GavelA Bedford attorney was disbarred, and attorneys in Fort Worth, Weatherford and Crowley were disciplined in actions recently announced by the State Bar of Texas.

Carol Bowling Jackson, 62, of Bedford was disbarred in January after a grievance related to a divorce case. A grievance committee panel found she had failed to abide by a client's decision in the divorce matter, failed to keep the client reasonably informed and to return the file to the client upon request, according to the April edition of the Texas Bar Journal.

Gerald G. Staton of Fort Worth in February received a three-year, partially probated suspension regarding three matters: failure to keep clients reasonably informed about their status in a civil matter; failure to refund to a client advance payments of a fee when his service had been terminated; and failure to failure to surrender papers and property to which a client was entitled and to refund advance fees upon termination of representation, the Journal reports.

John-Paul Chidgey, 38, of Fort Worth in February received a two-year probated suspension. A grievance committee panel found he had neglected a client's legal matter by failure to appear at a pre-trial conference and another hearing and failure to keep the client reasonably informed about her family law matter. 

Barbara Wylie, 60, of Weatherford, in January received a one-year partially probated suspension. A grievance committee panel found that she neglected a legal matter entrusted to her, failed to completely carry out obligations owed to the complainant, and failed to keep the complainant informed of the status of his civil matter.

Also disciplined was Ray W. Hill, 71, of Crowley. He received a one-year, fully probated suspension after a grievance committee panel found that he engaged in the practice of law when his right to practice had been administratively suspended for failure to timely pay required fees. 

04/27/2012

Identifying government expenditures can be like searching for the needle in a haystack

Wouldn't it be nice if taxpayers could click a file and see Excel rows and columns that contain government expenditures? And what if those reports were readily and easily available? Better yet, such spreadsheets would allow the public to search and find specific data. (The more typical scenario, of course, is to be handed a 1,000 page document that contains only some of the information you are seeking. If you're lucky, it will be current.)

Hopefully, Congress and the President will move quickly forward with the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, which is going to move mountains of records into the digital age of the 21st century. The Act is expected to force agencies to show the numbers in an easy digital format; the Act also includes the creation of an independent board that will say yea or nay over which reports need digital facelifts or, better, a technological overhaul.

Texas Medical Board disciplines four Tarrant County doctors

Doctors in Euless, Fort Worth, Southlake and Westlake were among 32 physicians disciplined by the Texas Medical Board in April. The board found that Dr. Samuel Clark Hoover of Euless had "nontherapeutically" prescribed to one patient, resulting in the patient's overdose and hospitalization. Under an agreed order, a physician will monitor his practice. Hoover also will be limited to practicing in a group or institutional setting, and he must complete eight hours of continuing medical education on the treatment of chronic pain. He was penalized $3,000. 

The board also found that Dr. Owen Curl Dewitt of Fort Worth terminated his care of a patient without reasonable notice and behaved in a disruptive manner. He has agreed to an order that he properly notify patients of the closure of his medical practice within 60 days, complete 16 hours of continuing medical education in ethics and risk management and meet other requirements. 

Dr. James Edward Stevens of Westlake was disciplined for failure to maintain adequate records for one patient. Dr. Tanuja Reddy of Southlake agreed to undergo a neuropsychological examination. The board said he could not practice medicine with reasonable skill or safety due to a mental or physical condition. --- Lois Norder

 

04/26/2012

Death doesn't stop some docs from billing Medicare

This year, the anti-fraud unit of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services removed from its list of certified providers 3,000 names, the unit's medical director told state medical boards meeting in Fort Worth Thursday. Some doctors were booted after the CMS list was screened against the Social Security list of deaths. The good thing, said Dr. Shantanu Agrawal of the CMS Center for Program Integrity, is that most of those doctors were no longer practicing. Zombie docBut death apparently didn't stop some doctors from billing Medicare. In other anti-fraud efforts, the center is going after imposters who use doctors' names or medical identification - such as folks who use dead doctors' IDs to scoop up federal dollars. The center is also flagging Medicare providers who bill for more than 24 hours of service in a day. Now that's dedication. However, the GAO has just come out with a report that says CMS still has a ways to go to root out fraud. Among its suggestions: fingerprint-based criminal background checks. - Lois Norder   

Defense contractor sold dangerous, defective flares to military

Nighttime combat flares purchased by the Air Force and Army were supposed to help keep service members safe. Instead, the flares put their lives at risk. Turns out that the flares, if dropped from less than 10 feet, could ignite or explode. A defense contractor has now agreed to pay $36.9 million to settle a whistleblower's lawsuit about the defective flares, Air Force Times reports. "This settlement demonstrates our commitment to aggressively go after contractors who recklessly disregard and deliberately ignore critical safety defects in munitions used by America’s uniformed fighting men and women on the front lines of the war on terror,” said David B. Barlow, U.S. Attorney in Utah

04/25/2012

$130 million prisoner tax fraud slips pass IRS

Income tax formWho would ever suspect that people locked up in prison would file false tax returns? Apparently not the IRS, which failed to screen most tax returns filed by prisoners to look for fraud, the agency watchdog reports. So almost 49,000 prisoners whose tax returns slipped through managed to claim refunds of more than $130 million - even though they had no wage information reported to the IRS by employers. IRS hasn't found the time, though,to share information about prisoner tax returns with prison officials, as required by a 2008 law. Nor has the agency provided complete and accurate information about prisoner tax fraud to Congress, the watchdog reports. So that apparently leaves the field clear for inmates, who have plenty of time on their hands to figure out new scams. And prisons may even provide them with tax forms.  - Lois Norder   

04/03/2012

Dallas debt settlement firm finally paying off balances -- to bilked customers

Dallas-based Credit Solutions of America is certainly living up to its slogan "take control of your Debt relieffinances" -- the motto "Let us rip you off" was apparently taken -- chiefly by being forced to return money to the people it promised to help.

Already banned from doing business in Oregon and Maine, the ironically named Credit Solutions was ordered to return more than a half million dollars to Idaho residents. (You know someone is messing up when the generally docile residents of Idaho gets irritable.) 

There's more: A Vermont court has fined the company $2 million in a consumer fraud case and ordered Credit Solutions to pay full refunds to 207 Vermonters totaling about $350,000, Vermont Public Radio reports.

Among the sore points for Vermont, was the company's claim that it could reduce consumers' debt "in 60 seconds."  Fast talk, slow action, the AG complained in its lawsuit.

On the way is potentially more liability. Lawsuits are pending against the company in Texas (for false, deceptive and misleading acts); New York (for deceptive business acts and false advertising); and Missouri (for illegally charging customers an up-front payment). The Better Business Bureau in Dallas gives the company an F rating, which is not good, noting 506 complaints on file.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis BBB reported that Credit Solutions CEO Doug Van Arsdale has moved on and is now connected with a daily deal site, SaveMore.com.

In a few months time, that site has a sparkling record: It drew complaints from consumers in 45 states, the BBB says. Only five left to go. 

 -- Lois Norder and Darren Barbee