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Sixteen people have been charged for participating in a multimillion-dollar workers compensation insurance referral scheme, the Orange County (California) District Attorney’s Office said Monday.
The scheme, which involved a business run by Carlos Arguello III of Tustin, California, and Edgar Gonzalez of Anaheim, California, targeted and “exploited persons in predominantly Spanish-speaking communities,” the district attorney’s office said in the statement.
In 2005, Mr. Arguello formed Centro Legal Internacional, an “advertising” company, and secured unlawful referral contracts with 20 to 40 workers comp insurance and personal injury attorneys. Mr. Arguello is accused of requiring all participating attorneys to sign annual contracts for his “joint advertising program.” The defendant attorneys paid a monthly fee for referral mill workers called cappers to deliver an agreed-upon minimum number of retained clients per month, according to the statement.
Mr. Arguello faces up to 29 years and eight months in prison and Mr. Gonzalez faces up to 20 years and eight months in prison. The attorneys face from seven to nearly 26 years in prison, Tony Rackauckas, Orange County district attorney, said at a Monday press conference.
“This type of fraud factory drives up the costs and drives businesses out of California. People who live in poor neighborhoods should not be exploited. They shouldn’t be used as ATM machines. They shouldn’t be victimized by unscrupulous lawyers and doctors,” said Mr. Rackauckas.
Claims fraud continues to drive workers compensation costs up, driving payers to look for new ways to combat it.