Federal prosecutors on Wednesday announced charges against nine people, including seven Port of Long Beach dockworkers, for allegedly allowing an estimated $2.1 million in fraudulent claims to be submitted to their union’s health insurance plan to pay for sexual services, not to mention the more traditional scam of billing insurance for physical therapy that was never provided.
Sara Victoria, 46, of San Pedro—who prosecutors bill as the “conspiracy’s ringleader” in a Department of Justice press release—is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.
The plea agreements for Victoria and her eight fellow defendants were filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court. According to Victoria’s agreement, the DOJ statement reads, “from January 2017 to August 2021, she owned and operated three business: Back to Life Wellness Center LLC and The Chiroman Wellness Center – both based in San Pedro – and the Wilmington-based Waterfront Wellness Center Inc. These companies offered patients chiropractic services, acupuncture treatments, and also sexual services.”
Prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s office for California’s Central District allege that Victoria knew that dock workers and others involved in the Long Beach shipping industry had health insurance under the International Longshore and Warehouse Union-Pacific Maritime Association (ILWU-PMA) benefit plan. This plan generally covered all chiropractic services with no deductible and without requiring copay or any other out-of-pocket expenses.
“Victoria hired women to provide sexual services to dock workers at her companies and recruited them through referrals and from strip clubs in the Long Beach area,” the U.S. Attorney claims.
“In exchange for obtaining sexual services for themselves and their friends, ILWU-PMA plan members authorized Victoria to submit false claims for reimbursement for services not actually rendered, including chiropractic and physical therapy, using their names or the names of their family members, such as their spouses and children. Victoria also agreed to pay ILWU-PMA plan members cash kickbacks in exchange for authorization to submit false claims for reimbursement for services not actually rendered.”
Victoria also admitted to using someone else’s identity without the person’s consent during the commission of the health care fraud conspiracy, prosecutors charge. In total, they allege, Victoria submitted approximately $2,110,920 in claims to the ILWU-PMA plan, for which the plan paid approximately $551,810. After Victoria enters a plea of guilty, she will face a statutory maximum sentence of 12 years in federal prison.
Also charged this week was Long Beach longshoreman and ILWU member Cameron Rahm of Pico Rivera. A federal grand jury charged Rahm, 39, in an indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, two counts of health care fraud, and one count of making false statements to federal investigators, DOJ said.
Rahm was allegedly a patron of Victoria’s businesses and agreed to have her submit the fraudulent claims to the ILWU-PMA plan for services not rendered or for sexual services. He is also accused of lying to FBI agents investigating the scheme when he denied allowing anyone to bill his health insurer for sexual services.
Rahm faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison for the conspiracy and health care fraud counts, and five years in federal prison for the false statements count, should he be convicted on all charges.
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