A woman who ran a cosmetic surgery business in southern California with her husband pleaded guilty Friday to ripping off insurance companies by billing $65 million worth of tummy tucks, breast enhancements and nose jobs as medically necessary procedures.
Linda Morrow, 69, admitted that she and her 77-year-old husband, Dr. David Morrow, had falsified medical records and encouraged patients to undergo extra surgeries in order to collect insurance payments for elective procedures that would not normally be covered.
Prosecutors said that between 2007 and 2013, the Morrows submitted up to $65 million in bogus insurance claims and collected tens of millions in payouts for procedures that shouldn’t have been covered at all.
To pull off the fraud, Linda Morrow, who served as the executive director of the Morrow Institute in Rancho Mirage, would alter medical records to bill tummy tucks as hernia repair or abdominal reconstruction surgeries, nose jobs as deviated septum repair surgeries; and breast enlargements as surgeries to correct tuberous breast deformity.
The couple would actively market their services as coverable under insurance plans, and would instruct patients to falsely fill out medical forms claiming they had come to the clinic to receive medically necessary treatments, prosecutors said.
“THESE cases are GOLD!!!” David Morrow allegedly wrote to his wife in an email in 2009, according to court papers.
The couple would also convince patients to undergo multiple procedures at once in order to maximize the amount that could be billed to the insurance companies, prosecutors said. In some cases, patients suffered serious complications due to having too many procedures done at the same time, investigators said.
A message left with Linda Morrow’s attorney wasn’t immediately returned.
Eventually, many of the major insurance companies became suspicious and stopped paying out on claims, so the couple began targeting patients who had insurance through labor unions or for working for municipalities, according to court papers.
The couple were charged with fraud in 2015, and after David Morrow pleaded guilty the following year, they fled to Mexico and ultimately absconded to Israel using fraudulent Mexican passports. Prosecutors said that the couple had quietly sold their Beverly Hills mansion for $9.75 million while awaiting trial and had moved $4 million of it to accounts in Israel.
While there, they lived under assumed identities with false Guatemalan passports, but when Israeli authorities figured out what had happened, the pair were extradited back to the U.S. in 2019.
David Morrow is currently serving a 20-year sentence. Linda Morrow, who has been in custody since 2019, faces up to 20 years in prison when she is sentenced in July.