In a recent article on workcompcentral.com, it was reported that two workers’ compensation judges, Paul DeWeese and Alan Skelly, summed up the definition of “conviction.” The question at hand is if a defendant has pleaded guilty to a crime but has not yet been sentenced, is that a conviction? The judges ruled that a guilty plea is a conviction for the purposes of suspending medical providers.
Judge DeWeese’s reasoning for this decision was that he found that allowing providers, who have pleaded guilty to fraud, to continue treating injured workers while they await sentencing would frustrate the Legislative purpose of AB 1244 allowing the DWC to suspend convicted providers. Judge DeWeese cited the state Supreme Court decision People v. Laino which defined the general rule in California to be that “a plea of guilty constitutes a conviction.”
In Judge Skelly’s reasoning, he also said a guilty plea constitutes a conviction for the purposes of enforcing provisions in AB 1244. Speaking out on a particular case involving Dr. Mitchell Cohen and his plea of falsifying a tax return, Dr. Cohen stated that his actions were not harming patients so it didn’t fall under the mandatory suspension provision in AB 1244. Judge Skelly stated that Dr. Cohen admitted to receiving kickbacks, and citing the Appellate Court decision of Windham v. Board of Medical Quality Assurance, “filing a false tax return was related to the practice of medicine.
Judge Skelly also recommended that Michael Barri be suspended from participating in workers’ compensation due to his guilty pleas of mail fraud and honest services fraud in the kickback scheme involving Pacific Hospital of Long Beach.
These opinions help close the gap between plea and sentencing when it comes to provider suspension.