Jefferson County Chiropractor, Employees Convicted of Disability Fraud Conspiracy
From the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Missouri:
ST. LOUIS – A jury in U.S. District Court in St. Louis on Wednesday convicted a chiropractor from Jefferson County, Missouri, one current and one former employee of conspiring to commit disability fraud.
Vivian Carbone-Hobbs, 60, of Fenton, Christina Barrera, 63, of St. Louis, and Clarissa Pogue, 39, of DeSoto were each convicted of one count of conspiracy to defraud the Social Security Administration. Carbone-Hobbs was convicted of 10 counts of health care fraud and two counts of theft of money from the United States. Pogue was convicted of one count of theft of money from the United States.
The three conspired with each other and others to fraudulently obtain disability payments for patients.
Carbone-Hobbs is the co-owner of Power-Med Inc., a chiropractic clinic in Arnold, Missouri, with her husband Thomas G. Hobbs. In closing arguments Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy Berry told jurors that in exchange for upfront fees of thousands of dollars, the conspirators would coach those patients on how to conceal their abilities so they would seem unable to work and perform many of the basic functions of life, like lifting, sitting, standing and walking. Patients also had to pay hundreds of dollars for annual appointments to keep qualifying for disability payments, Berry said.
Patients were told they should go on disability “so you can enjoy yourself,” Berry told jurors.
One woman “just wanted time away from work” when she arrived for an appointment at PowerMed, Berry said, but was told “You need to go out on disability.”
An undercover investigator who was not injured but said, “I’m just tired of working,” was told, “You’re going out, you’re going to be permanently disabled,” Berry said, quoting an undercover video of the conversation.
Carbone-Hobbs was also billing insurance companies for services that were not provided.
All three are scheduled to be sentenced May 4. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment, a fine of $250,000, or both. The health care fraud and theft charges carry penalties of up to 10 years in prison and the same fine. They will also be ordered to repay the money.
Carbone-Hobbs’ husband, Thomas G. Hobbs, 65, pleaded guilty in January to a conspiracy charge and admitted conspiring to commit the crimes of health care fraud, making false statements, theft of government funds and Social Security fraud.
Sixteen defendants have either been convicted at trial or pleaded guilty. One case is still pending.
Hobbs admitted that beginning in 2011, he fraudulently assisted patients in receiving more than $3.5 million in disability benefit payments through the Social Security Administration’s Disability Trust Fund and through private disability benefit insurance providers. Hobbs charged patients between $2,000 and $8,600 to prepare disability forms and coached them to lie to the Social Security Administration and insurers about their ability to perform basic activities.
Hobbs also used a fictitious medical license number and submitted false and fraudulent medical reports to buttress patients’ disability claims. Hobbs submitted or caused to be submitted false and fraudulent claims for reimbursement to health care benefit programs for services that were not provided, medically unnecessary services or services provided by unqualified persons to make it appear that the disability patients had medical conditions.
He also admitted that despite his lack of a medical license, between 2011 and 2019 he purchased and dispensed prescription medications, administered injections and dispensed medications intravenously to patients.
Hobbs is scheduled to be sentenced April 19.
The cases were investigated by the Social Security Administration – Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tracy Berry, Dorothy McMurtry, Diane Klocke and Gwendolyn Carroll are prosecuting the case.
Anyone who suspects fraud involving the Disability Insurance Benefit Program is asked to contact the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General Hotline at: 1-800-269-0271 or https://oig.ssa.gov/report/.