National Roundup

Attorney pleads guilty in insurance fraud scheme

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Twin Cities personal injury attorney has pleaded guilty to defrauding auto insurance companies by making false health care claims.

William Sutor III enter the plea Monday to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud as part of an agreement with federal prosecutors. Sutor was accused of working with chiropractors to bill insurance companies for treatments that he knew the patient never received.

In June 2015, a so-called runner brought Sutor a prospective client. The following April, Sutor submitted a letter to the insurance company falsely stating the client, who was actually an undercover agent, had received chiropractic treatment totaling $24,000 to settle a bodily injury claim, the Star Tribune reported.

The plea deal has prosecutors asking for 10 to 16 months, plus up to $55,000 in fines and $14,600 in restitution.

Judge accused of ethical misconduct suspended

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) —  Authorities in Louisiana suspended a judge  who’s accused of being involved in a romantic relationship with a young woman who had criminal cases pending in his court.

Shreveport City Court Judge Lee Irvin, 64, was suspended indefinitely with pay in an order from the Louisiana Supreme Court filed last week, news outlets reported. A retired judge was brought back this week to help with city’s court docket.

Irvin’s ex-girlfriend, a longtime city government employee who had a key to his house, shot herself in November 2019 after finding the judge in bed with the woman, KTBS-TV reported. The ex-girlfriend was seriously wounded but survived.

News reports by KTBS-TV and a self-report from Irvin were used to open the investigation by the state Judiciary Commission, according to court documents. The commission investigates matters of possible ethical misconduct by judges.

Shreveport police are conducting a public-integrity investigation to determine whether the young woman or any other defendants received preferential treatment, and whether the docket was manipulated to get cases into Irvin’s court, KTBS-TV reported.

Irvin’s attorney denied a request for comment Friday.

Walgreens to pay $7.5M over phony pharmacist

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Walgreens will pay $7.5 million to settle with California authorities after an employee was criminally charged with impersonating a pharmacist and illegally filling more than 745,000 prescriptions in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Kim Thien Le has pleaded not guilty to felony impersonation charges. Prosecutors said that from late 2006 through 2017, Le used the license numbers of registered pharmacists in order to impersonate them and dispense prescriptions at Walgreens stores in Santa Clara and Alameda counties.

The prescriptions allegedly included more than 100,000 for opioids such as fentanyl, morphine and codeine.

Le herself didn’t have a pharmacist license, prosecutors said.

The district attorneys in both counties filed a consumer protection action against Walgreens. Prosecutors on Monday announced that the pharmacy giant agreed to settle. The company will pay $7.5 million in penalties, costs and remedial payments.

“The burden is on the company to make sure its employees are properly licensed and to complete a thorough background check,” Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said in a news release announcing the settlement.

In a statement Monday, Walgreens said Le hasn’t worked for the company since 2017.

“Pharmacy quality and safety are top priorities, and upon learning of this issue, we undertook a re-verification of the licenses of all our pharmacists nationwide,” the statement said.

The complaint alleged Walgreens failed to vet Le thoroughly when it promoted her to positions requiring a license and failed to make sure that its internal systems were strong enough to prevent an employee from evading them.

New York
First openly gay federal judge dies in New York

NEW YORK (AP) — Deborah A. Batts, the nation’s first openly gay federal judge, has died. She was 72.

Batts was found dead on Monday, three months before she was set to preside over a trial of California lawyer Michael Avenatti on charges that he cheated porn star Stormy Daniels, a former client, of proceeds of a book deal. No cause of death was immediately released.

In June 1994, Batts was sworn in after a smooth confirmation process following her appointment to the bench by President Bill Clinton. During her confirmation proceedings, it was never mentioned that she was a lesbian.

 But, at that time, she told the New York Law Journal that she did not want to be known as the “gay judge.”

“I’m a mother, I’m an African American. I’m a lesbian,” she said.

“Deborah Batts was a trailblazer in every respect: an openly gay African-American woman who became a United States District Judge after a distinguished career as a federal prosecutor and law professor,” Chief Judge Colleen McMahon said in a statement. “It will be difficult to replace her. Our hearts are broken at her premature passing.”

McMahon said one of the judge’s greatest contributions to the court was her last, when she provided oversight to a unique program that enabled people convicted of crimes to earn reductions in their period of supervised release by participating in a special rehabilitative program under intense judicial supervision.

“She will be remembered by her colleagues for her devotion to the work of the court, for her mentorship of a cadre of young lawyers of all backgrounds, and for her infectious smile and extraordinary collegiality,” McMahon said.

Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a tweet that he was “Saddened to hear of the passing of Deborah Batts, a giant of the legal community who blazed new trails for justice and equality.”

He called it a “major loss for our judiciary and our movement.”

Batts received her undergraduate degree from Radcliffe College in 1969 before graduating from Harvard Law School in 1972. She worked at Cravath Swaine & Moore before joining the U.S. attorney’s office in 1979.

In 1984, she joined the faculty at Fordham University School of Law, becoming a tenured professor in 1990.