Who were the four attorneys arrested?
- Steven Slootsky
- Adam Hurtig
- Mark Spatz
- Vincent Pravato
What are kickbacks?Kickbacks are a scheme in which a person or business pays someone to find them new clients or pays the person a percentage of their profit for finding them a client. (Think: illegal commission, bonus, rebate, bribe, etc.) This procedure is commonly associated with lawyers or doctors' offices who are prohibited by Florida law from paying people to solicit new clients. Florida's anti-kickback statutes are designed to prohibit illegal “patient referrals between health care providers and entities providing health care services” for financial gain. Florida's anti-Kickback laws apply to all healthcare service providers. This activity is not only banned by the Florida and American Bar, but is also illegal by Florida and U.S. law. The activity may be known as illegal solicitation, kickbacks, or patient brokering; and may refer to healthcare professionals or attorneys. The most logical reason this activity is illegal, especially with regard to attorneys, is because of a simple reason: taking away choice. By soliciting a person in crisis, like a person who was just in a major car accident, you are taking advantage of them. Likewise, by the very nature of the crime, the people soliciting the client for the attorney (known as runners) do not offer options. Therefore, the clients do not have the time to carefully consider and research their choice.
What kind of scheme were the four attorneys operating?The kickback scheme ran by the four South Florida attorneys worked by using illegal runners who happen to be an optimal position to take advantage of potential victims. These lawyers would pay cash to tow truck and body shop employees (the runners in this case) to tell the car crash victims to go to these specific attorneys. Presumably, this comes off to the victim as great advice, since the tow truck driver or body shop employee has daily experience with serious car accidents, and therefore must know what they are talking about. It is this misleading act that makes this a crime. In effect, this lawyers were doing something more commonly known to the public, called "ambulance chasing". This act involves an attorney soliciting their legal services to someone in duress. These attorneys just found more effective ways to do this by paying the people who are already called to the worst accident scenes. [See: ABA Rule on Direct Contact]. The incriminated lawyers would then send their illegally acquired clients for medical treatment to healthcare facilities with which they also had a sleazy deal worked out. These clinics, specifically Margate Physicians and Broward Spine Associates, which in turn pay the attorneys cash for the referrals. Of course, this is also illegal both in Florida and federally; again, since patients have a right to make an informed decision about their healthcare provider, as well as, it being illegal to pay for patients. Once the victim is a patient at the healthcare facility, they can begin using the illegally obtained client to start billing their PIP insurance. This sheds light on why a healthcare facility might be willing to pay cash for a patient. It is unclear as of the writing of this article if anyone in healthcare facilities will be charged or fined. Additionally, Adam Hurtig has been charged further with fraud for “misappropriating his clients' settlement funds.” Hurtig benefitted by signing over his clients' settlement checks to the healthcare providers, and in return received half the amount in case. (See Florida v. Rubio)