Waste, Fraud & Abuse: SF Attorney Accused of Bilking City Using Autistic Son

A too clever by half San Francisco attorney and his wife have been arrested for defrauding the San Francisco Unified School District. The scam? Setting up a fake foundation to for autism research, and then using overly generous ADA rules to seek hundreds of thousands of dollars in reimbursements for the education of their autistic son. Pretty low:

A former partner at a well-known law firm and his marketing consultant wife were arrested Wednesday on felony charges of bilking the San Francisco school district and private insurers out of about $400,000 via fraudulent bills for treatment of their autistic son, officials say.

The San Francisco couple, Jonathan S. Dickstein and Barclay J. Lynn, both 43, surrendered Wednesday and are expected to appear in court this morning for arraignment on 30 counts of fraud, theft and conspiracy, authorities say.

They were briefly jailed Wednesday on $100,000 bail each but were released on bond.

"This was an elaborate scheme to defraud the school district and insurance companies out of a lot of money," said Chief Assistant District Attorney David Pfeifer. "They used this scheme to make money off their child's special needs - that's terrible."

The scam was enabled by a ridiculously lax oversight over a state program that required school districts to compensate parents for the education of autistic children who couldn't be served by the public schools. The Dickersteins were caught only after a new case worker was assigned to their case, and presumably rejected their bribes.

He and his wife had arranged for the home care of their young son through another school district before transferring to the San Francisco school district. Under state guidelines, school districts are obligated to provide or compensate parents for home education of autistic or other severely disabled children.

By law, parents are required to use licensed private educational providers to develop individual treatment plans that meet state guidelines for their disabled children.

Dickstein and Lynn had employed such a private provider, but in 2006, they created their own: Puzzle Pieces. Prosecutors said it was actually a dummy company that was not licensed to develop autism education.

In fact, they say, the couple used Puzzle Pieces to overbill and "double dip" - charging both the school district and insurers for the exact same services - from 2006 to 2008. They billed for counselors and doctors at allegedly inflated rates and charged both the district and insurers for the same hours of treatment. They allegedly told insurers the district would not pay.

Autistic parents have a tough go of it. But, the idea of this sort of open ended public funding of autistic education - while certainly compassionate - is ripe for this sort of abuse. The mandate demands equal treatment, in the form of educational dollars, for autistic kids and their parents, but there don't appear to be any sort of controls on what sort of education the kids receive.

The cry of the Big Government fiscal conservative is always "we must crack down on waste, fraud & abuse!" (That's the exact incantation. It's never "fraud, abuse & waste"). But, the ready availability of "free" money, backed by an unbreakable mandate of legalized compassion, means that the fraudsters will gather no matter how much you claim to crack down on them.

Best Retirement Invesments Auto Search