2 doctors indicted in scam involving surgical-implant devices
Two Seattle-area surgeons have been indicted in an alleged $7.3 million scam in Texas involving surgical-implant devices, money laundering and wire fraud.
Seattle Times health reporter
An ex-Army surgeon from Texas and his wife, who now practice in the Seattle area, have been indicted in a $7.3 million health-care scam.
The 65-count federal indictment announced Thursday in El Paso, covering activities from 2002 through mid-2010, names Dr. Richard Craig Rooney, of Medina, and his wife, Dr. Angie Unchi Song, a former El Paso otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat) physician and cosmetic surgeon.
“It’s very misleading they’re calling it $7.3 million fraud,” said Mary Stillinger, Rooney’s attorney in El Paso, who was reached Tuesday by the News Tribune in Tacoma. “The allegation is that he was driving business to one vendor, it’s not about stealing. He is innocent, and he’s looking forward to clearing his name.”
Rooney, an ex-Army surgeon, formerly worked at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso and Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood.
His attorney said the federal indictment did not involve patient care.
“He provided excellent services to our troops both in the U.S. and abroad,” Stillinger said.
Since his retirement from the military in 2010, Rooney, a board-certified orthopedic spine surgeon, has practiced in the Seattle area, where he has been recognized as a “top doctor” and “Seattle superdoctor” in local magazine polls. He now practices at NeoSpine, with offices in Seattle, Puyallup and Poulsbo.
Also indicted were Song’s father, Charlie Takhyun Song, of Grapeview, Mason County, along with her company Spondylos Consulting, and Julia Lynn Eller, of Allure Spine in Charlotte, N.C., and that company.
The counts include conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering. Federal prosecutors allege that Eller provided cash and firearms so Rooney would use Allure Spine surgical implants.
The government is seeking proceeds it said derived from the fraudulent scheme, along with more than $4.25 million seized from financial institutions and two residential properties in Washington.
Since July 2010, Song has been an employed physician with Swedish Medical Group. Rooney has had medical staff privileges at Swedish since June 2010.
In a statement, Swedish said in light of the federal investigation and indictment, Swedish Medical Group and Song have mutually agreed to end her employment with the medical group.
The hospital also said medical-staff privileges for both doctors have been restricted, meaning they are no longer allowed to see patients within Swedish facilities while this matter is being reviewed, although the alleged crimes apparently occurred in Texas before their joining the Swedish medical staff.
The hospital said Swedish Health Services, Swedish Medical Group and Swedish Medical Staff were never notified of the investigation by federal officials, and they only became aware of the criminal indictment through news reports on Friday.
“Although not aware of any wrongdoing by these physicians since joining our medical staff, Swedish will take appropriate steps to ensure the integrity of all billing practices,” Swedish said in the statement.
Friday, Rooney’s office said he was attending a medical conference in Mazama, Okanogan County, and had left instructions for calls to be referred to Skillinger; calls to that office were not returned.
Carol M. Ostrom: 206-464-2249 firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @costrom. Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.