Beverly Hills, California, surgeon Randy Rosen and his girlfriend, Liza Vismanos, are accused of orchestrating a multi-million dollar insurance fraud scheme that involved recruiting vulnerable patients for surgeries they did not need. The Orange County District Attorney described the couple as “real-life Frankensteins.”
Investigators say Rosen and Vismanos worked with at least four other co-defendants who would persuade patients to undergo unnecessary procedures, such as implant surgeries and cortisone injections, in return for compensation. According to prosecutors, Rosen and Vismanos then billed the insurance companies for these surgeries and tests, to the tune of about $600 million. Nearly $52 million was paid out.
The other four defendants were identified as Robert Mellon, Thomas Douglas, Shea Simmons and Patrick Connolly. Rosen, Vismanos and the other defendants are all facing dozens of felony charges and could spend decades in prison if convicted.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. District Attorney: Patients Were Recruited From Sober Living Homes & ‘Treated Like Human Guinea Pigs’
The patients that were persuaded to partake in unnecessary medical procedures were recruited from sober living homes in southern California, according to a news release from the Orange County District Attorney’s office. These homes, also known as halfway houses, help people recovering from addiction transition after completing rehab programs.
Investigators have described Rosen and Vismanos as the ringleaders of the illegal operation. The DA’s office says the couple hired “body brokers” to approach patients at sober living homes. The patients were offered financial compensation in return for agreeing to undergo unnecessary cosmetic procedures and medical testing. According to a bail motion obtained by NBC Los Angeles, “Rosen put his patients under anesthesia for these procedures in order to bill insurance for a major medical surgery at an approximate cost of $80,000 per procedure.”
DA Todd Spitzer described the scheme as an elaborate experiment in which the patients were treated like “human guinea pigs” with the goal of stealing money from the insurance companies. “I refuse to allow these body brokers to exploit and traffic human beings as part of a sick and twisted plot to line their own pockets,” Spitzer said in a statement. “This prosecution is a testament to the dedicated work of our prosecutors and our Bureau of Investigation to hold these real-life Frankensteins accountable.”
2. Rosen Had Patients Undergo Unnecessary Drug Testing at Vismanos’ Company, the DA Says
In addition to surgeries and other procedures, the insurance fraud scheme also involved unnecessary drug testing, the Orange County DA’s office claimed. Prosecutors say Rosen referred the patients to Lotus Laboratories, which Vismanos owns. The lab is located in Los Alamitos.
The DA explained in the news release that the referral would have been a problem on its own. “California law prohibits such referrals where the physician or his immediate family has a financial interest with the person or entity receiving the referral.”
Prosecutors said Vismanos billed at least 22 different insurance companies for the drug tests at a cost of more than $3 million. NBC Los Angeles reported that in addition to Lotus Labs, Vismanos also owns the Wellness Wave surgical center in Beverly Hills.
3. At Least 35 of the Patients Involved Have Died, Many From Overdoses, According to the Bail Motion
Rosen and Vismanos were arrested on June 30, 2020. As of this writing on July 4, both remained behind bars, according to public inmate records with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. They were due back in court on July 6. Rosen has pleaded not guilty to 88 counts while Vismanos pleaded not guilty to 56 counts.
Investigators said the scheme went on for nearly two years, between June 2017 and May 2019. According to the bail motion, patients were offered between $500 and $2,000 per procedure and were encouraged to partake in multiple procedures. At least 35 of these patients have since passed away and the cause of death for many of them was by overdose, according to the bail motion.
Rosen’s bail was initially set at $52 million, to match the amount of money reported stolen from the insurance companies. The DA’s office said the total bond was later lowered to $16 million. Vismanos’ bond was set at about $3 million. Both of them were ordered to surrender their passports and submit to GPS monitoring if they are able to post bail. District Attorney Spitzer added in the news release that the defendants would have to prove the bail money came from a legitimate source in order to use it.
4. Rosen Specialized In Pain Medicine & Anesthesiology, According to the Medical Board of California
Rosen graduated from the University of Illinois College of Medicine in 1989, according to his profile on the Medical Board of California website. His profile shows that his current medical license was issued in 1996 and was set to expire on June 30, 2021.
Rosen’s areas of practice were listed as pain medicine and anesthesiology. He was also certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology. Rosen’s record did not include any disciplinary actions, malpractice judgments or other citations prior to the current case.
Rosen and Vismanos live together and have two children, according to Rosen’s attorney, Harland Braun. A search of online property records indicates Rosen was previously married; he and his ex-wife owned a home in Los Angeles together until 2010.
5. Rosen & Vismanos Paid More Than $600,000 For Artwork & Sued the Gallery Owner In 2019 For Failing to Deliver the Items
Rosen and Vismanos have been in the headlines before in connection to a different alleged fraud scheme, but as the victims. They paid more than $600,000 to gallery owner Philippe Hoerle-Guggenheim, the New York Post reported in February 2019. The couple said they wired him the money in order to buy a painting by French impressionist Pierre-August Renoir, along with other art pieces.
Rosen and Vismanos said they never received the artwork and sued Hoerle-Guggenheim in federal court. They accused him of using their money to find his own lifestyle. The case was settled in the Central Distrct of California in December 2019. Court records show Hoerle-Guggenheim was ordered to repay the couple $200,000.
According to a search of online records, Rosen’s financial history also included a bankruptcy. He filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2009.