Saturday, April 22, 2017

Tractor operator was killed in an overturn while moving a sandblasting trailer.

TO: Director, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

FROM: Iowa FACE Program ..................Submission Date: 1/12/2000

SUBJECT: Tractor operator was killed in an overturn while moving a sandblasting trailer.


During the winter of 1999 a man was killed while operating a narrow-front tractor at a rural business location in Iowa. The man was the owner of a sand blasting company and was in the process of moving a sandblasting trailer on his acreage. This homemade sandblasting trailer had previously been filled with sand by an employee who then parked the trailer in an undesirable location, slightly downhill from the main driveway. The trailer for the sandblaster had a high-mounted tongue, and the support jack for this trailer was in an extended position, therefore it was impossible to hook the trailer directly to the tractor draw bar. The man attached a chain from the trailer tongue to the front-end loader bucket. He lifted the tongue off the ground, then tried to back uphill with the tractor. The sand blasting trailer was full of sand and very heavy. It had snowed recently, and the victim was having difficulty getting sufficient traction while backing uphill in this position. Realizing he needed more pulling power, he attached a 50-foot chain from the tractor draw bar to the rear of a compressor truck used in the business. The man’s wife drove the truck, following hand signals from her husband. The truck was positioned on the entrance road to the acreage, slightly at an angle from the tractor and the sandblasting trailer. As they began to pull and move ahead, the truck turned slightly to its right down the driveway. This created a situation where the chains were pulling the tractor at an angle creating sideways forces at both attachment points. These forces caused the tractor to overturn to its left side, killing the operator underneath. The tractor did not have a Roll Over Protective Structure (ROPS).

RECOMMENDATIONS based on our investigation are as follows:

#1 To avoid overturns, operators of heavy equipment should pay special attention

to the attachment points and direction of pull while towing other equipment.

#2 All tractors should be equipped with Roll Over Protective Structures (ROPS).

#3 Narrow-front tractors (tricycle type) should not be equipped with front-end loaders.


In January, 1999 the owner of a small sand blasting company was killed while trying to move a piece of equipment at his rural business / home acreage. The Iowa FACE program was notified of the fatality a few days later from a newspaper article, and began an investigation. Information was gathered from the County Sheriff, who also provided excellent photographs taken at the scene. Contact was made with the victim’s wife, and a site visit was planned for the summer. Two investigators from the Iowa FACE program conducted the site visit, talked with the victim’s wife, and took additional photographs and measurements at the scene. The tractor was not present during the investigation, since it had been sold to an auction company.

The sand blasting company was a family business that was founded less than a year before the fatal overturn. The husband-wife team frequently used part-time help, but did not have any regular full-time employees. The couple had lived on their acreage for three years. The victim had over 30 years of sandblasting experience working with his father and with other companies. He had owned the tractor for one year, and was very familiar with the tractor and the sandblasting rig. There was no official safety program at this small business—part-time employees were instructed on a job-by-job basis. The sand blasting company was a continuous year-around business, and sandblasting was performed on location or at their rural shop location. The victim had several company vehicles and used several pieces of heavy equipment in his business. He was in the midst of preparing to sandblast several cement trucks.


The victim was attempting to move a heavy sandblasting trailer at his rural business location. The homemade trailer consisted of a large tank for sand, heavy-duty air handling hoses, filters, etc. It was made from a recycled anhydrous ammonia tank, and held three tons of sand when full. The single-axle trailer had dual tires and a pintel-type hitch for attachment to the rear of the compressor truck.

The victim and his wife had just returned from a vacation and were making preparations to sandblast several cement trucks. Three part-time employees had previously filled the tank with sand and parked the trailer on a sloping grassy area, slightly downhill from the main driveway. The normal place to store this trailer was in a shed, not in the open. These employees were not present that day, but the company owner was working by himself, assisted by his wife.

It had recently snowed and there were snow drifts around the trailer, therefore the sloped area where the trailer was parked was quite slippery. Normally the trailer was moved using the compressor truck, but due to the slope and the weather, the victim did not want to risk getting the truck stuck in the snow. The height of the trailer tongue was about 0.75 meters (2’6"), which matched the compressor truck hitch point The tongue of the trailer was supported by a heavy-duty, screw-type jack. The tongue was not made to fit the tractor draw bar, and therefore the victim used the front-end loader to lift the tongue. The chain was attached to the midpoint of the bucket edge and to the trailer tongue (see Photo 2). To be able to support the tongue and its supporting jack in the air, the loader had to be raised quite high, approximately 1.2 m (4’) based on photographs from the scene after the injury.

The tractor did not have sufficient weight and traction to pull the trailer up the slope on snowy ground. The added tongue weight to the front bucket, combined with the slope of the ground transferred weight off the rear wheels onto the narrow front-end of the tractor. There was a pile of sand on the ground where the tractor was sitting prior to the rollover. It appears the pile was formed from the rear wheels spinning backwards. Desiring more pull, the victim attached a 50-foot chain from the draw bar of the tractor to the rear of the compressor truck, which was positioned near the driveway heading towards the road. The tractor was an older tricycle-type model and did not have a ROPS to protect the operator.

When the victim’s wife returned from town, her husband asked her to assist him by driving the compressor truck. She was unable to communicate with him because of the noise, but relied on hand signals while looking through a side-view mirror. While they were pulling on the trailer and moving ahead, she turned the truck slightly to the right, more in line with the driveway, and then lost sight of her husband in the mirror. She then stopped the truck and looked out through the passenger window. The tractor had been pulled over to its left side, and had completely rolled over on its top (see Diagram), crushing her husband underneath. She went to him, but he was unresponsive. The man was air-lifted to a regional hospital where he was pronounced dead.


The official cause of death was listed as traumatic asphyxiation due to tractor rollover.


Recommendation #1 To avoid overturns, operators of heavy equipment should pay special attention to the attachment points and direction of pull while towing other equipment.

Discussion: Towing or pulling heavy equipment can become hazardous if the powered vehicle is pulling at an angle or if attachment points are high off the ground, thus increasing the risk of overturn. In this case the tractor front attachment point was the edge of the front-end loader (see Photo 2), which was approximately 1.2 m (4’) off the ground. Supporting the heavy trailer with the loader shifted some weight from the back wheels to the front wheels, which reduced the tractor’s pulling power and compromised stability due to the narrow front design. Initially the tractor and the sandblasting trailer were aligned, but after the truck started to pull and move down the driveway at an angle, significant sideways forces to the front and rear of the tractor were created. The combination of this changed angle, the tractor weight shifted to the front, the high front attachment point, narrow front wheels, and the sloping ground to the side of the tractor were accumulative factors sufficient to overturn the tractor to its left side. Even if visual communication between the two drivers was maintained, there would likely not have been sufficient time to react and prevent the sudden overturn. Pulling machinery at an angle should be avoided, and attachment points should be kept low, below or near axle level.

Recommendation #2 All tractors should be equipped with Roll Over Protective Structures (ROPS).

Discussion: ROPS are known to be nearly 100% effective in reducing deaths from tractor overturns. Tractors manufactured after 1986 have ROPS, but to date the majority of tractors in the United States do not yet have ROPS. Studies have suggested that risk factors for overturns include narrow front (tricycle design), using a front-end loader, and using the tractor for mowing on sloping ground. The tractor in this case was an old tricycle-type tractor equipped with a front-end loader. It is important that especially high-risk tractors that are used frequently are equipped with ROPS. In some cases ROPS are not available, but for the majority of functioning older tractors, such as this tractor, ROPS are available at fairly reasonable cost.

Recommendation #3 Narrow-front (tricycle type) tractors should not be equipped with front-end loaders.

Discussion: The combination of having a front-end loader on a tricycle type tractor has been found to be hazardous in previous FACE investigations. This type of tractor was common in the past, and many of these tractors are still in daily use. Tricycle-type tractors are more prone to overturns than wide-front tractors, and should not be used with front-end loaders or other attachments, which can significantly change the machine’s center of gravity. Raising or supporting a heavy load with the front-end loader bucket shifts weight from the back wheels to the narrow front wheels and decreases the tractor’s stability. Sideways forces from pulling, making sharp turns, or moving on uneven ground can easily cause an overturn.

Wayne Johnson, M.D. Risto Rautiainen, M.Sc.Agr.
Trauma Investigator (FACE) Coordinator
Institute for Rural & Environmental Health Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health
University of Iowa -- Iowa City, Iowa Institute for Rural & Environmental Health
University of Iowa -- Iowa City, Iowa

*Photo credits: Thanks to the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office

Worker with Laguna Farms died from blunt-force head injuries after his body was found underneath irrigation equipment he'd been towing with a tractor in Ventura Co., CA

The Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office identified on Friday a worker who was killed in a Somis farming accident a day earlier as Jose Lopez Lopez, 27, of Oxnard.

Lopez died from blunt-force head injuries in the accident, the agency said.

Lopez's death was reported to authorities just after 9 a.m. Thursday at a berry farm in the 1000 block of West La Loma Avenue after his body was found underneath irrigation equipment he'd been towing with a tractor.

Ventura County Fire Department paramedics pronounced Lopez dead at the scene, said Steve Swindle, a spokesman for the department.

Lopez's employer, Laguna Farms, held a memorial service for him at its Somis location Friday afternoon, said Mari Escamilla, a marketing specialist and spokeswoman for the company.

Laguna Farms grows berries and operates more than 13 sites in Ventura County. It was founded in January 1981, according to the company's Facebook page.

The company said Friday that it is respecting his family's privacy to mourn during this difficult time. It also said Lopez's death was a loss to the entire company and that it "will continue to reach out to the family as the days progress."

Swindle said the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health had been notified of the incident.

Paola Laverde, a spokeswoman for Cal/OSHA in Oakland, said on Friday that investigations by the agency into workplace-related accidents and deaths typically take up to four months to complete.

Cal/OSHA performs "a thorough review of the workplace's safety plans and hazards, as well as records of workplace safety training, equipment, maintenance and other things," Laverde said.

Inspectors fined Laguna Farms $325 earlier this year for failing to keep a complete log of work-related injuries and illnesses, known as a Form 300, Laverde said. The company also was cited and fined another $325 for failing to provide workers with shade once the temperature reaches 80 degrees or more, something Laverde said the company had voluntarily agreed to do earlier.

Lesbians Amanda and Samantha Willard pleaded guilty to arson and insurance fraud charges after admitting to setting their Austell, GA home on fire in an attempt to collect insurance money

 Amanda and Samantha Willard- THE GEORGIA PEACHES

DA: Two plead guilty to arson, insurance fraud in Austell

Staff reports
Apr 18, 2017

Two women have pleaded guilty to arson and insurance fraud charges after admitting to setting their Austell home on fire in an attempt to collect insurance money, according to the Cobb District Attorney’s office.

The fire took place on Sept. 30, 2015, on Ivy Log Drive in Austell. No one was home when a passerby saw the flames and kicked in the front door to check for anyone inside, said Kim Isaza, spokesperson for the DA’s office.

Cobb firefighters discovered evidence of arson in the housee, such as the knobs on the gas stove all being turned on despite the pilot light being out, Isaza said.

Days before the fire, Amanada and Samantha Willard, who were married at the time and worked as paramedics at Grady Hospital, took out a $45,000 renter’s insurance policy on the property from USAA, Isaza said. The home had been purchased a year prior to the fire by Samantha Willard’s mother, Elizabeth.

Amanda and Samantha Willard denied knowing how the fire started and told investigators they left the home several hours before the fire was discovered, Isaza said. However, cell phone records and an neighbor’s eyewitness account place the women at the house shortly before the fire, Isaza said.

In addition to the $45,000 payout, which went to a joint bank account held by Amanda and Samantha Willard, Elizabeth Willard received $84,000 from her homeowner’s insurance, nearly twice what she paid for the property, Isaza said.

With a trial set to begin Tuesday, 26-year-old Amanada Grace Willard, also known as Amanda Grace Knepshield, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree arson, insurance fraud and making a false statement, Isaza said.

Cobb Superior Court Judge Kimberly Childs sentenced Amanda Willard to 20 years on probation, 60 hours of community service and ordered her to pay $136,000 in restitution to the insurers, Isaza said, though the DA’s office had asked for a 10-year prison sentence.

Samantha Willard, 25, then pleaded guilty to the same charges with Assistant DA Marty First again asking for a 10-year prison sentence, Isaza said.

Samantha Willard’s attorney, John Steakley of Marietta, told Childs the crime was not financial in nature but involved a domestic incident between the two stemming from their failing marriage, according to Isaza.

Despite tearful statements from Samantha Willard, Childs sentenced her to 20 years with five to serve in prison and the rest on probation and ordered her to pay $136,000 in restitution, Isaza said.

As her sentence was being imposed, Samantha Willard took out her phone and appeared to send a text message, which drew a rebuke from the judge, Isaza said.

U.S. Geological Survey: the amount of brackish groundwater is more than 35 times the amount of fresh groundwater used in the United States each year.

USGS finds vast reserves of salty water underground in California

By Devika G. Bansal | |
PUBLISHED: April 15, 2017 at 4:36 pm | UPDATED: April 17, 2017 at 4:59 am

A new nationwide study has unearthed the huge hidden potential of tapping into salty aquifers as a way to relieve the growing pressure on freshwater supplies across the United States.

Digging into data from the country’s 60 major aquifers, the U.S. Geological Survey reports that the amount of brackish — or slightly salty — groundwater is more than 35 times the amount of fresh groundwater used in the United States each year.

Supplies exist in every state except New Hampshire and Rhode Island, with the largest reserves in the central U.S. In the Golden State, the California Coastal Basin and Central Valley aquifers together contain close to 7 billion acre-feet of brackish water, which if desalinated could provide enough water for the state’s needs for the next 160 years.

Untreated brackish water can replace fresh water for some uses, but would have to be desalinated for municipal use. A recent study by the Oakland-based Pacific Institute found that the costs of doing that were competitive with other methods of adding water capacity.

“This is a big leap for the water sector,” said Newsha Ajami, director of urban water policy at Stanford University’s Water in the West program. “It’s amazing we have so much capacity now to map and measure.”

Finding evidence of more than 800 times the amount of brackish groundwater the U.S. currently uses, the study provides a starting point for more in-depth local analyses.

“The use of brackish groundwater has been growing since the 1970s,” said Jennifer Stanton, a USGS hydrologist and lead author of the study. “Our goal was to determine the data gaps so we know enough about the resource to use it sustainably.”

Brackish water contains dissolved minerals ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 milligrams per liter. But the salinity doesn’t matter too much for the mining and oil and gas industries, which have been the biggest users of untreated brackish groundwater. The salty cousin of fresh water also finds favor with many livestock species that can drink brackish water in the lower concentration range, as well as with carefully managed salt-tolerant crops. When it comes to using brackish water for municipal use, however, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency follows higher standards that entail treatments to remove salts.

Texas, California and Florida lead the pack with the most number of brackish groundwater desalination plants.

In the Bay Area, the Alameda County Water District has one such facility in Newark that has been desalting about 14,000 acre-feet of water annually since 2003 — about 40 percent of the water supplied by the district. There are currently two dozen brackish desalination facilities in California producing a total of 80,000 acre-feet of water annually. That’s a year’s worth of water for 400,000 people. The dry state of Texas has 46 inland brackish desalination facilities producing similar amounts — and hopes to develop more.

“The thing that surprised me is just how much interest there is in obtaining updated information about brackish groundwater resources,” Stanton said.

The report is expected to spark more discussion because it lays out the depths at which the water exists, salt concentrations, water volumes and aquifer features that make them easy or difficult to tap.

Although California just had one of its wettest years on record, experts warn that the situation could quickly change. “Yes, we have had one year of flooding and a lot of rain, but it doesn’t mean that in a year or two we’re not going to go back to drought conditions,” Ajami said.

That means local and regional water agencies must continue to develop a variety of water supplies to make themselves more secure during the drought years, said Rich Mills, chief of the water recycling and desalination section at the California Department of Water Resources. “You want to make sure different regions have diverse water supply portfolios, which means that if one falls short, you have another one to rely on,” added Ajami.

In that light, water agencies will continue to look to California’s vast salty aquifers to make their overall water supply more resilient, Mills said. Three new brackish desalination plants are under construction in the state, and at least 17 more are being planned — one of which will be located in an unincorporated area of Monterey County just north of Marina.

All of the other projects will be located in Southern California. Also, an alliance of Bay Area water agencies has plans for a large plant in Pittsburg, with the potential to desalt brackish water from the Delta and deliver 23,000 acre-feet of water a year.

Despite the interest, however, it is unclear how sustainable it will be to pump the vast resource because of real concerns about groundwater overuse and land subsidence — the Central Valley being a prime example. Aquifers in the highly productive agricultural region have a lot of clay. “When we take water out of layers that are mostly clay, they squish and you lose the pore space forever,” said Rob Jackson, an earth scientist at Stanford.

“People in the Central Valley are using groundwater from deeper and deeper layers,” added Jackson, who published a California groundwater map last year. “If we’re going to use Sample taps inside Sand City’s desalination plant test membranes that remove salt from brackish water. (Luke Gianni/California American Water)

groundwater, we’ve got to think about where the subsidence will occur and pump groundwater from somewhere else.”

Recharging the aquifers is also an issue. Deeper layers contain ancient water that can take hundreds of thousands of years to refresh naturally, so using the resource would be highly unsustainable.

“If the agencies are going to be pumping brackish water out, they also have to manage how it will recharge over time,” said Rich Juricich, principal engineer in charge of sustainable groundwater at the California Department of Water Resources.

One of the ways toward groundwater sustainability is to replenish aquifers artificially by injecting water into them or by allowing water to trickle down through ponds and trenches. “There’s an opportunity to do more managed recharge in California to capture some of the runoff water and store it underground for use and also to recharge the aquifers,” Jackson said.

The USGS report, he and other experts say, is a promising start in pinpointing areas where brackish water could become a sustainable resource for many communities.

“There’s a lot of usable groundwater under our feet in California,” Jackson said, “as long as we’re careful about where and how we use it.”


Large Aquifers Discovered Under California's Drought-Stricken Central Valley

By Bobby Magill, Climate Central

Jun 28 2016 09:00 AM EDT

Giant Pools of Water Found Underneath California

Meteorologist Danielle Banks is talking about aquifers buried thousands of feet below the ground that could be a game changer for drought-stricken California.

California’s Central Valley has three times more freshwater in underground aquifers than previously thought, drinking water that could help the state weather future drought and fortify itself against a changing climate, according to a new Stanford University study.
But tapping that water, locked thousands of feet beneath the ground, will be expensive and comes with an enormous risk — it could cause the valley floor to sink, according to the study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Sinking land in the Central Valley is threatening roads, homes and other infrastructure, and reduces the amount of water some aquifers can hold.

“It’s not often that you find a ‘water windfall,’ but we just did,” said study co-author Rob Jackson, an earth system science professor at Stanford University. “California’s already using an increasing amount of groundwater from deeper than 1,000 feet. Our goal was to estimate how much water is potentially available.”

California's parched Central Valley in 2014. (Stuart Rankin/NASA/flickr)

Climate change is exposing the state to a greater threat of drought, reducing the amount of water available for farming and drinking as higher temperatures evaporate reservoirs. More precipitation is expected to fall as rain instead of snow in California as the world warms, forcing the state to find new ways to store rainwater for municipal and agricultural use.

To stave off losses during its four-year drought, California has relied on groundwater to irrigate its farm fields. So much groundwater is being used that the water table has fallen by 50 feet in some places in the Central Valley, and the valley floor is sinking, or subsiding, as aquifers are depleted.

Land subsidence, which has been occurring in the valley for decades because of groundwater pumping, has accelerated to two inches per month in some places, according to NASA. Sinking land threatens roads, bridges, aqueducts, buildings and other infrastructure as the land collapses beneath them.

The California drought has forced cities to cut back on water use. (Kevin Cortopassi/flickr)

Most of the groundwater comes from aquifers less than 1,000 feet deep. Deeper aquifers are usually considered too salty to be used for drinking or irrigation, requiring costly desalination and drilling operations to access them.

Analyzing water data gathered from oil and gas wells across eight Central Valley counties, the Stanford researchers show that there are about 2,700 cubic kilometers of accessible fresh or brackish water locked in the Central Valley’s deep underground aquifers. That’s almost triple the 1,020 cubic kilometers of freshwater that had been previously estimated.

Farming in California consumes between 25 million and 33 million acre-feet of water annually, or between 31 and 40 cubic kilometers of water, according to a 2015 Congressional Research Service report. A cubic kilometer of water is roughly equivalent to 1.3 times Los Angeles’ annual water use.

Some of the water that Jackson’s team found is considered brackish — containing low levels of salt — but it could be affordably desalinated, the study says.

“States such as Texas and Florida, and countries, including China and Australia, are already desalinating brackish water to meet their growing water demands,” the study says. “Accounting for deep but relatively fresh groundwater can substantially expand California’s groundwater resources, which is critical given the state’s current water shortages.”

Additional research is needed to determine how much tapping the water would cause the valley floor to sink and how oil and gas development, which is common in those deep aquifers, could contaminate the water, especially from fracking, according to the study.

“We're not advocating running out and drilling lots more groundwater wells,” Jackson said. “The Central Valley's been in denial about groundwater overdrafts for years. We need to consider ground subsidence. We also need to think about oil and gas activities directly in and around freshwater aquifers. Is that the best use of the resource long term?”

California’s water agency, the State Department of Water Resources, is concerned about the long-term implications of possibly using — and using up — a newly found reserve of freshwater.

“Understanding the total aquifer capacity is valuable from a technical standpoint, but a more useful estimate would be how much of the aquifer can we truly utilize before we experience significant impacts to surrounding agricultural, urban and domestic water users, to public infrastructures, to the environment and to the aquifers’ ability to recharge in a reasonable time frame,” said Lauren Hersh, spokeswoman for the California Department of Water Resources’ Sustainable Groundwater Management Program.

Leonard Konikow, an emeritus U.S. Geological Survey groundwater scientist and author of a 2013 federal government report on groundwater depletion in the U.S., said deep underground freshwater may be too expensive for many in California to access.

“In a severe drought, such deep drilling for water might be justified for municipal or industrial supplies, but I can’t imagine that the cost would ever be justified for agricultural purposes,” he said.

But Jackson said deep freshwater is a largely untapped and little-understood resource.

“It’s a huge pool of water,” Jackson said. “Some companies and towns are already pumping deep groundwater. It’s a little more expensive to use because of the pumping costs, but people are already doing it. Remember, too, that private landholders often have few restrictions on what they can pump.”

Christopher and Tanya King accused of victimizing more than 13,000 patients and collecting over $23 million in a workers' compensation insurance scam

Thursday, April 20, 2017 07:07PM
COSTA MESA, Calif. --

A $40 million workers' compensation insurance scam was uncovered in Orange County, according to officials.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas announced several felony charges had been filed against the alleged masterminds: Christopher and Tanya King.

"The Kings are accused of victimizing more than 13,000 patients and collecting over $23 million," Rackauckas said.

The district attorney's office said the Kings used their companies - Monarch Medical Group, King Medical Management and One Source Laboratories - to recruit doctors and pharmacists to prescribe unnecessary treatments for workers' compensation patients.

In return, officials said the doctors and pharmacists received kickbacks.

"These physicians betrayed the trust that patients put in them to put their care first and foremost," California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said.

Rackauckas announced charges were filed against 26 people, including 21 doctors. One scheme alleged the couple worked with Charles Bonner and Mervyn Miller, the owners of Steven's Pharmacy in Costa Mesa.

The district attorney's office said various creams, not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, were produced. The Kings allegedly bought them for $15 to $40, but billed the insurance carriers $250 to $700.

"We've all been appalled to see huge medical bills that appear to be out of proportion to the services and products provided," Rackauckas said.

A pharmacist at Steven's Pharmacy told ABC7 the claims were false. The Kings were also accused of working with doctors to order bogus urine tests.

The number for Monarch Medical has been disconnected. Officials said they hoped the charges would send a message.

"If you're ripping off insurance companies and consumers and employers and ultimately putting patients here at risk, we're going to come after you," Jones said.

If convicted of all charges, Tanya King faces a maximum of 117 years in prison.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


East Bay doctors accused in alleged $40 million medical-insurance scam

By Kelly Puente, Orange County Register |
PUBLISHED: April 21, 2017 at 10:16 am | UPDATED: April 22, 2017 at 12:08 am

SANTA ANA — More than two dozen doctors, pharmacists and business owners, including several from the East Bay, were charged Thursday in a suspected $40 million medical-insurance scam in Orange County and elsewhere that officials said “played with patients’ lives.”

The accused masterminds are Beverly Hills couple Tanya Moreland King, 37, and husband Christopher King, 38, who own medical-billing and medical-management companies Monarch Medical Group, King Medical Management and One Source Laboratories.
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 Authorities said the couple carried out a complex insurance fraud in which they recruited doctors and pharmacists to prescribe unnecessary treatments for patients on workers’ compensation.

Four of the doctors named in the case are from Pleasanton: Dr. Chris Chen, 55; Dr. Eduardo T. Lin I, 55; Dr. Mannie Joel, 67; and Dr. Parvez Fatteh, 46. Dr. Mohamed Ibrahim, 40, of Danville, is also named as a defendant.

“The Kings and their co-conspirators played with patients’ lives, buying and selling them for profit without regard to patient safety,” State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said in a news conference Thursday in Orange County. “The magnitude of this alleged crime is an affront to ethical medical professionals.”

The Kings, along with 21 doctors, one physician assistant and two pharmacists, face a string of felony charges, including insurance fraud, filing false and fraudulent claims, and conspiracy to commit medical-insurance fraud.

Prosecutors allege that the Kings, from 2011 through 2015, billed for unnecessary creams, tests and treatments to gain profits. The alleged scam victimized more than 13,000 patients and at least 27 insurance carriers, prosecutors said. Authorities said that about $23.2 million was paid to the Kings, while a total of $40 million was billed to insurers.

Chen and Lin, both of Pleasanton, were charged with four counts, including conspiracy to commit medical insurance fraud, filing a false and fraudulent claim and insurance fraud, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. Both have two enhancements that allege the property loss was over $200,000 and that they committed an aggravated white-collar crime over $500,000.

Chen is trained in pain management, and received special training in car and motorcycle accident reconstruction, according to his website. He has offices in Pleasanton, San Mateo, Pinole and Sacramento. He did not respond to a request for comment.

Lin is part of the Sutter Health network and operates out of an office in Pleasanton. He specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation, including acupuncture and back pain. He received his medical training in Sao Paulo, Brazil, according to the Sutter Health website.

Ibrahim, an orthopedic hand surgeon, operates out of Modesto and is also part of the Sutter Health network. He attended medical school in Cairo, Egypt. His charges also include insurance fraud, with the two enhancements that allege the property loss was over $200,000 and that he committed an aggravated white-collar crime over $500,000.

Sutter Health declined to comment.

Joel is an anesthesiologist, also associated with San Leandro Hospital and ValleyCare Medical Center. He received his medical degree from the University of Pretoria in South Africa. His charges also include conspiracy to commit medical insurance fraud and filing a false claim. His Pleasanton location appears to have closed.

Fatteh operated out of East Bay Spine and Sports at Stoneridge mall in Pleasanton, but a call to the facility found that Fatteh sold his practice more than a year ago.

Prosecutors said the Kings made oral and written agreements with doctors throughout California, including five in Orange County, to pay them each time they prescribed an unnecessary cream or medication. The doctors are accused of labeling the payment kickbacks as “marketing expenses.”

According to authorities, the schemes included:

• Snake oil scam: The Kings are accused of working with co-defendants Charles Bonner, 56, and Mervyn Miller, 66, the owners of Steven’s Pharmacy in Costa Mesa, to manufacture creams that “did nothing” and were not FDA approved. The Kings are accused of paying $15 to $40 per tube of compound cream and billing insurance companies $250 to $700 per tube.

• Medication kickback scam: The Kings are accused of purchasing repackaged oral pain medications from Orange County outfits. They would then send the medications directly to the physicians. When the medications were prescribed, the Kings allegedly billed workers’ compensation carriers without disclosing the wholesale costs and then split the profits with the physicians.

• Bogus urine test scam: The Kings are accused of providing technical staff to participating physicians’ offices for unnecessary urine tests. The tests were then referred to a lab for additional testing regardless of results, prosecutors said. Each test cost a $60 flat rate, but insurance carriers were billed hundreds of dollars, prosecutors said.

“In order for the system to survive, we must have ethical doctors who abide by their Hippocratic oath to do no harm,” Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said.

Tanya King faces up to 117 years in prison, while the two pharmacists face up to 28 years, prosecutors said. The doctors each face up to 25 years. It was unclear how much time her husband would face if convicted.

It appeared that all of the defendants were out of jail, either released on their own recognizance or by posting bail.

Tanya King’s lawyer, Richard Moss, said he is reviewing the case, and he expects her to be exonerated. Lawyers for some of the other defendants did not return calls for comment.

The Orange County doctors’ medical licenses were active as of Thursday afternoon, according to the state Medical Board.

The other defendants are: Dr. Jerome Robson, 68, Modesto; Dr. Eric Schmidt, 63, Santa Rosa; Dr. Duke Ahn, 49, Los Alamitos; Dr. Robert E. Caton, 65, Modesto; Dr. Ismael Silva Jr., 63, Newport Coast; Dr. Ismael Geli Silva, 38, Huntington Beach; Dr. Paul A. Stanton, 54, Victorville; Dr. John Casey Jr., 65, Modesto; Dr. Jonathan Cohen, 57, Modesto; Dr. William Pistel, 53, Modesto; Dr. Kevin Park, 49, Buena Park; Dr. Kourosh Shamlou, 49, Newport Coast; Dr. Robert Fenton, 68, Ranchos Palos Verdes; Dr. Michael Henry, 61, Granite Bay; Dr. Howard Oliver, 70, Long Beach; Rafael Chavez, P.A., 53, Apple Valley; Dr. Paul Kaplan, 76, Folsom.

East Bay Times staff writer Angela Ruggiero contributed to this story.