Tort Law

Lawyer is convicted in staged slip-and-fall scheme that involved unnecessary surgeries

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A New York lawyer was convicted Friday in a scheme to recruit people to participate in staged slip-and-fall accidents and then to undergo unnecessary surgeries to increase the value of their claims.

Lawyer George Constantine, 60, of Plainview, New York, earned more than $5 million in settlement fees from nearly 200 lawsuits that he filed based on the staged accidents, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release. He was convicted, along with New York orthopedic surgeon Dr. Andrew Dowd, who performed unnecessary surgeries, according to evidence cited by prosecutors.

People recruited to pose as slip-and-fall victims were poor, vulnerable and sometimes homeless, prosecutors said. Accidents were often staged at the sites of cellar doors, cracks in sidewalks and purported potholes in front of businesses.

After the staged accidents, the supposed victims were directed to go to hospitals and then were brought to Constantine’s office “by the carloads,” the press release said. After meeting with Constantine, the “patients” were driven to various medical appointments. After undergoing surgery, the patients were paid $1,000 each.

Litigation funding companies paid for the surgeries and other medical procedures. The funding companies charged the patients interest rates that were so high that the bulk of suit recoveries often went to the companies, Constantine and other fraud participants, the press release said.

Constantine and Dowd, 67, of Miller Place, New York, were found guilty of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, mail fraud and wire fraud. Dowd was also found guilty of additional counts of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, mail fraud and wire fraud. They will be sentenced in March.

Law360 had coverage of the verdict. A juror told the publication that prosecutors proved their case with “dominoes of evidence.”

Constantine’s lawyer, Marc Gann, told Law360 that he plans to continue the fight.

“To say the verdict was disappointing would be an understatement. The jury has spoken but I continue to believe in my client’s innocence and will keep fighting until we can establish it,” Gann told Law360.

Several other co-conspirators already pleaded guilty in the scheme, including another lawyer, Marc Elefant. Three other defendants were convicted in a May 2019 trial.

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