A Rancho Mirage woman facing federal charges for her role in a $50 million health care fraud scam out of a Coachella Valley surgery center was returned to the U.S. after fleeing to Israel two years ago.
Linda Morrow, 67, allegedly billed insurance companies for “medically necessary” cosmetic surgeries, according to the U.S. Attorney Central District of California office.
Morrow and her husband, David Morrow, 74, were arrested in Israel on June 16. David Morrow pleaded guilty in 2016 in the case and was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison after fleeing the country, officials said. He is pending extradition proceedings in Israel and also faces contempt of court charges for fleeing while he was pending sentencing.
Linda Morrow was the executive director for The Morrow Institute in Rancho Mirage, where she allegedly submitted bills for cosmetic procedures that included tummy tucks, nose jobs, breast augmentations and vaginal rejuvenation, while claiming that they were “medically necessary.”
A 31-count indictment outlines a scheme where patients were “lured” to the institute with promises that the procedures would be paid for by their union or PPO health insurance plans. Some patients who underwent multiple surgeries at the institute suffered “severe medical complications,” the indictment alleges.
When insurance companies refused to pay for the cosmetic procedures for patients who were employed by public entities such as school districts, the institute made formal claims against the public entities and demanded payments that totaled more than $15 million from the California Highway Patrol, the Desert Sands Unified School District, the Palm Springs Unified School District and the City of Palm Springs.
The victimized health insurance companies included Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of California, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Regional Employer/Employee Partnership for Benefits, formerly known as Riverside Employer/Employee Partnership and Cigna.
Linda Morrow arrived in Southern California Monday after being deported by Israeli authorities, who had determined that she had entered the country on a fake Mexican passport.
She appeared in United States District Court in Santa Ana on Monday afternoon and pleaded not guilty to separate grand jury indictment that charges her with contempt of court for fleeing while free on bond. She was ordered detained and a trial date in the contempt case was scheduled for August 27. She will make another court appearance later this month to discuss the health care fraud case.
In that case, Morrow was charged with 23 counts of mail fraud, six identity theft charges and one count of misprision of a felony for allegedly failing to report the health care fraud scheme to authorities.
She faces a potential sentence of 500 years in federal prison if convicted as charged, officials said.
The FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation and the California Department of Insurance participated in the investigation. The FBI’s legal attaché in Tel Aviv and the Israeli National Police assisted in the capture of the Morrows.