California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi on Thursday announced the arrests of an El Dorado County chiropractor and three Central Valley chiropractors on multiple felony counts, including insurance fraud.
Joseph R. Ambrose, 43, of El Dorado Hills, Richard Guadalupe Saucedo, 62, of Turlock, and Pedram Vaezi, 33, of Modesto, were arrested by California Department of Insurance Investigators on Tuesday and booked into the San Joaquin County Jail. A fourth suspect, Michael Hall Yates, 48, of Stockton, was arrested Tuesday night and booked into the Contra Costa County Jail.
Saucedo and Vaezi were charged with filing false insurance claims and practicing medicine without certification, a felony in the state of California. Yates and Ambrose were charged with multiple felony counts, including practicing medicine without certification, conspiracy to commit a crime, grand theft, workers’ compensation insurance fraud, unlawful rebates, and filing false insurance claims.
If convicted, each of the four suspects could face up to five years in state prison and/or be fined up to $150,000, or double the amount of the fraud, whichever is greater. Bail was set at $50,000 each.
Investigators allege that Yates and Ambrose were two of six co-owners of the Sierra Hills Surgery & Medical Center, an outpatient surgery center in Sacramento. The investigation revealed that the suspects were directing and performing a surgical procedure known as “Manipulation under Anesthesia (“MUA”)”. Chiropractors, by virtue of their licensure, are prohibited by law from performing and/or participating in medical-surgical procedures.
Saucedo and Vaezi functioned as 1st assistant surgeons to Ambrose. During the period in question, Saucedo, Vaezi, and Ambrose were also employees of Med-1 Medical Center, headquartered in Modesto. Med-1 Medical Center is the focus of an ongoing San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office/CDI joint investigation. The owner of Med-1 Medical Center, Wilmer Origel, D.C., was also an owner of Sierra Hills Surgery & Medical Center. Origel was additionally the owner of a billing company, Unique Health Care Management, which, during the period of time in question, was performing the billing for Sierra Hills Surgery & Medical Center.
Origel, together with his administrator, Robin Barney, and his financial officer, Rebecca Benedict, were previously arrested by CDI Criminal Investigators in January of this year for allegations of fraudulent billing and other criminal charges.