Celeb skin doc bills nose jobs as insured medical repairsBy James Quiggle
October 3, 2017
Fugitive goes on run after convicted of $50-million insurance grab
Patients found Dr. David Morrow’s offer an easy sell — he’d pretty them up with free or discounted cosmetic surgery.
Insurers would pay most of the tab, the celebrity skin doc told patients at his clinic in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Except health insurance generally doesn’t pay for plastic surgery. Beautifying the body is more an elective personal pleasure than than true medical need.
So Morrow blithely invented medical diagnoses he knew insurers would pay — falsely billing $50 million for trumped-up surgeries. He billed nose jobs as fixing deviated septums. Tummy tucks magically became hernia repairs or abdominal reconstructions. Breast lifts were surgeries for “tuberous breast deformities.”
Morrow forged test results, medical notes and surgical records to back up his fantasy world. He even covered up the text of records for a patient’s “abdominoplasty” (tummy tuck) — hand-writing “umbilical & ventral hernias” on top of the original wording.
Insurance made doc wealthy
Compliant patients herded to Morrow. He fashioned himself as a high-profile, high-end skin doctor. “One of the top cosmetic surgeons in the world for skin and facial rejuvenation,” Morrow lauded himself on the now-shuttered website for his defunct Morrow Institute.
Pinterest postings are also an online temple to status, wealth and opulent living off of stolen insurance wealth. Morrow had his own line of beauty cosmetics, and claimed the world’s first laser face lift. The couple founded a Jewish day school, and donated handsomely to the symphony and other cultural causes.
Morrow also pressured some patients to get surgeries they didn’t want in exchange for “free” cosmetic upgrades. Patients believed Morrow played by the rules, giving them honest surgery and lodging honest insurance billings.
Far from it. On top of camouflaging cosmetic operations, Morrow also stole patient names, medical information and signatures to secretly charge insurers for surgeries he never bothered performing.
Tried to steal $50 million
The insurance spigot opened wide. Morrow charged patients’ insurers more than $50 million all told.
Morrow billed up to $150,750 for a single surgery. He ransacked insurers for as much as $700,000 if he did several procedures on a patient. The hefty payouts cascaded into his bank account — $24 million worth before he was caught. Morrow and his wife Linda owned a $9.5-million mansion and fleet of cars.
Morrow also botched some surgeries, disfiguring patients and inflicting ongoing discomfort.
Some insurers refused to pay up. So if the patient was a public employee, Morrow demanded the government agency pay him directly. He went after the California Highway Patrol, Desert Sands Unified School District, Palm Springs Unified School District and City of Palm Springs.
Handed 20 years, bolted for freedom
Investigators and prosecutors did their job well. The evidence of insurance scheming and tax evasion was so strong that Morrow pleaded guilty to federal charges. So did Linda, who was executive director of his operation.
They faced dozens of years in jail. Morrow was scheduled for sentencing first. Everyone showed up at the court for a hearing except the Morrows. They’d carefully plotted an elaborate escape.
The couple secretly sold their mansion and car fleet, wired millions of dollars to secret bank accounts, then disappeared. They’re still on the run, and the feds are hunting. Any potential for leniency evaporated. The court handed Morrow 20 years in federal prison in absentia. Linda awaits sentencing.
In Morrow’s high-rolling world of cosmetic scalpel work, the celebrity skin doctor proved that insurance fraud and bodily beauty both are only skin deep.
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