Dylan Walker faced up to 62 years behind bars, but won’t serve a single day in jail after pleading guilty to 62 counts of patient brokering.
Walker also won’t pick up one bit of trash along the freeway, or spoon one ladle of soup in community service after signing a May 6 plea deal that reduced the felony charges against him to misdemeanors.
His sentence: One year of informal probation and $267,483 in restitution, which he already paid.
Walker was one of 11 people arrested in a scheme to exploit drug users by recruiting them for unnecessary surgeries, then fraudulently billing insurance companies nearly $7 million in 2018.
His role as a “body broker” was to recruit often-vulnerable addicts and pay them up to $1,000 each to get surgically implanted devices that deliver Naltrexone — a drug that reduces an addict’s craving for opioids — whether they used opioids or not. The point was not to help anyone fight addiction, but instead to bill insurers some $40,000 per surgery, prosecutors said.
Walker’s plea was originally submitted to the court as felonies. The court dropped them down to misdemeanors to ensure equal justice was dispensed for similar crimes, court officials said. Still, the Orange County District Attorney called the sentence “unconscionable.”
Walker remains at the helm of a state-licensed addiction treatment center, and his sentence has ignited outrage among reformers who hoped for stiffer penalties to spur genuine change in the troubled, private addiction treatment industry.
“Let me be clear — the Department of Health Care Services has FAILED you by allowing Dylan Walker and those like him to continue to operate. The Orange County District Attorney’s Office has FAILED you by allowing Dylan Walker and those like him to continue to operate. And YOU have FAILED YOU by allowing Dylan Walker and those like him to continue to operate,” wrote an outraged David Skonezny, founder of the “It’s Time For Ethics in Addiction Treatment” Facebook group, in an online message last week to some 5,800 industry members.
He praised investigators working the case, but excoriated the rest of the system, including the courts. “What a colossal dumpster fire,” Skonezny continued. “It’s pretty clear those you serve don’t matter to them, and that they don’t possess the intellect to understand the depth of the depravity, the harm and death they are responsible for, nor the fortitude to do a damn thing about it. And until YOU hold them to account nothing is going to change.”
Walker was an executive at New Existence Recovery in Fountain Valley in 2018, and now runs Beachview Recovery in Huntington Beach, a state-licensed addiction treatment facility.
Walker and his attorney did not respond to repeated requests for comment, but Beachview’s web site says Walker has learned from past mistakes.
“Dylan created Beachview because he believes that sometimes all we need is a second chance,” his bio says. “Addiction is something he personally struggled with from a young age …. Throughout his journey, he has experienced loss and has made mistakes. As a result, he has found opportunity to learn and grow from it all.
“Dylan is now more than ever tirelessly devoted to being an example for others by illustrating that the work on one’s self is ongoing. Believing that one can always learn from another, from experiences, and can continuously grow and improve in life, Dylan recognizes how one step in the right direction can go a long way.”
The scheme was apparently a common one.
Beverly Hills doctor Randy Rosen faces scores of felony charges for building a luxurious life on the backs of desperate drug users. Rosen ran a surgical center that allegedly paid addicts to endure unnecessary surgeries, get unnecessary lab tests and receive unnecessary injections for inflated prices, according to Orange County prosecutors.
In 2017, prosecutors charged two doctors and a string of Southern California sober living homes with insurance fraud tied to what they said was a $22 million urine test billing scheme.
Walker admitted to unlawfully referring business to and from Community Surgery Center and SoberLife USA, “with reckless disregard for whether Community Surgery Center and SoberLife USA intended to violate” the law, according to documents filed with the court.
The District Attorney’s office did not sign off on the paperwork for the plea deal.
“Vulnerable sober living patients who were trying desperately to battle their addictions were treated like human ATM machines just to make a buck,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer. “These were serious charges involving multiple victims. It is unconscionable to think that this body broker could go right back to preying on these defenseless victims with little to no threat of facing any consequences.”
The plea went before Superior Court Judge Larry Yellin.
“The court amended the plea agreement in order to make sure that equal justice was dispensed, and that this case was treated in the same manner as similar cases of the past,” said court spokesman Kostas Kalaitzidis. “Mr. Walker made full restitution to the victims, and Mr. Walker’s sentence was in line with guidelines for all cases of this type.”
Critics wonder if Walker got a good deal because he’s providing valuable information to authorities about the others who were arrested in the scheme, including five doctors and the owner of a Fountain Valley drug treatment center. Still, reformers remain outraged.
“It’s sending the message, once again, that addicts and alcoholics don’t matter, their families don’t matter, they’re disposable, they’re not real people, they do this to themselves so screw ’em, who cares,” said said Nancy Clark, who has been running treatment programs in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa since 1990.
“You get more punishment for shoplifting a $5 item. I just don’t get this. They make this about Dylan and the insurance companies, but that’s not who the real victims are here. The victims are the people who got caught up in it, and all of us who pay these outrageous insurance premiums.”
Skonezny said that, today, the addiction treatment industry is worse off than when he created the ethics group nearly four years ago. Bad actors have been emboldened by what he termed “that pathetic plea agreement,” adding “it’s pretty clear pimps and scumbags can operate in our industry with impunity.”
The Southern California News Group in recent years has chronicled reports of deaths, sexual assault, drug abuse and paying for patients inside California’s loosely regulated private addiction treatment industry. Those reports have prompted federal probes, an Orange County task force and new state laws designed to protect vulnerable people struggling with addiction.
But on the street, insiders say, very little has changed.
Source: Orange County Register