Scott K. Akridge of Kennewick entered a plea of guilty to one count of making false statements and concealing information in late November. He was sentenced to 50 days in jail and ordered to pay $15,914 in restitution - $12,670 of it to L&I. Thirty days of the sentence were converted to community service.
Akridge was suspended as an L&I healthcare provider in 1995 after an investigation found that he had over-billed L&I for X-rays and procedures that weren't needed. At the time, Akridge could have resumed treating injured workers had he paid a fine of over $41,000 and taken some continuing education courses. He chose, instead, to relinquish his Labor and Industries' provider number and not treat injured workers.
In December 2000, L&I's Provider Fraud Unit received an anonymous tip accusing Akridge of continuing to treat injured workers using his father's provider number to bill L&I. An investigation showed that he continued that practice even after his father, Leroy Akridge, also a chiropractor, died in August 2001.
On this most recent violation, the prosecutor and defendant negotiated a settlement to avoid a court trial. As a part of that plea bargain, Akridge wrote a check for the full amount.
"People think they can get away with this kind of thing but they can't," said L&I provider fraud investigator Dave Williams. "Sooner or later we will catch them. Someone will turn them in, or we'll crosscheck our records with tax records from other jurisdictions and find a discrepancy. In this case, the guy was using his father's provider number, and he didn't stop even when his father died."
Labor and Industries manages the workers' compensation program for about 166,000 employers covering 1.9 million workers. Another 400,000 workers receive their industrial insurance through companies that are self-insured. Workers in both groups are entitled to the same level of benefits.
In recent years, L&I has beefed up its fraud investigation program, concentrating on employers who aren't registered or don't accurately report hours worked, health-care providers who over bill the department, and workers who collect benefits they aren't entitled to receive. In fiscal year 2002, the Provider Fraud Unit assessed fines and penalties of nearly $2.4 million.