The Government Rests Its Case Against Forest Park

After a morning session on Wednesday, the government rested its case against Forest Park Medical Center. They allege that the for-profit, physician-owned medical center located near Forest Lane and Central Expressway conducted a bribery scheme where it sent payments to doctors to direct surgeries to their facility, resulting in around $200 million in insurance payments between 2009 and 2013.

What began as 21 defendants has been whittled down to a weight-loss surgeon, three back surgeons, a pain management doctor, a former top executive and three others affiliated with the hospital, according to the Texas Lawbook. They all deny any wrongdoing, claiming that the payments they received were for marketing and consulting contracts.

The government presented its case for 18 days and questioned 47 witnesses, including insurance, auditing and government representatives. In the final days of the trial, the Lawbook reports that representatives from the cities of Dallas and Allen explained how medical insurance fraud costs everyone money when municipalities pay for their own health insurance. Higher payments from the cities for fraudulent charges comes from taxpayers.

Earlier this week, partner in the national auditing firm of Myers and Stauffer Missy Parks testified as to how money flowed from insurance companies to Forest Park, shell companies, and eventually the doctors. Defense attorneys worked to poke holes in her credibility, pointing out figures, accounts, and statutes with which she was unfamiliar and claiming she was in the pocket of the government, according to the Lawbook.

The Dallas Morning News reported testimony of a City of Allen employee who had a back surgery and two day recovery at Forest Park that ended in a $400,000 bill. The hospital made money through higher cost out-of-network operations like this one, which prosecutors allege were buoyed by bribes sent to doctors for referring patients there. High bills result in higher premiums, which were paid for by taxpayers when the patient is a city employee.

Parks testified that documents had been provided by prosecutors, that the government paid her firm $700,000 for its work on the case, and that she was billing for $238.75 an hour for her work. The firm only does contracts with government entities, including the FBI, the Lawbook reports.

Defendant Dr. Shawn Henry’s lawyer Chris Lewis brought up an analogy to explain how statistics and numbers can be used to prove opposing viewpoints, noting that the Dallas Cowboys can be seen as one of the best teams of all time or one of the worst in the last few decades, depending on which numbers are chosen to analyze.

The Lawbook reports that Tom Mesereau, the lead attorney for Dr. Michael Rimwali, asked Parks, “Are you telling this jury that you have no bias in this case?”

“No. I’m just here to do my job,” Parks replied.

The defense will begin presenting evidence on Monday, March 25.