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December 17, 2002

Benton County chiropractor jailed, fined for cheating L&I

TUMWATER - A Benton County chiropractor has pleaded guilty to using his deceased father's identity to bill the Department of Labor & Industries for injured workers he had treated.

Scott K. Akridge of Kennewick entered a plea of guilty in late November to one count of making false statements and concealing information. He was sentenced to 50 days in jail and ordered to pay $15,914 in restitution - $12,670 of it to L&I. Thirty days of the sentence were converted to community service.

Akridge was suspended as an L&I health-care provider in 1995 after an investigation found that he had overbilled L&I for X-rays and procedures that weren't needed. At the time, Akridge could have resumed treating injured workers had he paid a fine of over $41,000 and taken some continuing-education courses. He chose, instead, to relinquish his Labor & Industries' provider number and not treat injured workers.

In December 2000, L&I's Provider Fraud Unit received an anonymous tip accusing Akridge of continuing to treat injured workers using his father's provider number to bill L&I. An investigation showed that he continued that practice even after his father, Leroy Akridge, also a chiropractor, died in August 2001.

On this most recent violation, the prosecutor and defendant negotiated a settlement to avoid a court trial. As a part of that plea bargain, Akridge wrote a check for the full amount.

"People think they can get away with this kind of thing but they can't," said L&I provider fraud investigator Dave Williams. "Sooner or later we will catch them. Someone will turn them in, or we'll crosscheck our records with tax records from other jurisdictions and find a discrepancy. In this case, the guy was using his father's provider number, and he didn't stop even when his father died."

Labor & Industries manages the workers' compensation program for about 166,000 employers covering 1.9 million workers. Another 400,000 workers receive their industrial insurance through companies that are self-insured. Workers in both groups are entitled to the same level of benefits.

In recent years, L&I has beefed up its fraud investigation program, concentrating on employers who aren't registered or don't accurately report hours worked, health-care providers who overbill the department, and workers who collect benefits they aren't entitled to receive. In fiscal year 2002, the Provider Fraud Unit assessed fines and penalties of nearly $2.4 million.

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