SANTA ANA - A cosmetic surgeon who oversaw a long-running health care fraud scheme that conned insurance companies into paying tens of millions of dollars for unnecessary cosmetic procedures has been extradited from Israel to serve a 20-year federal prison sentence issued while he was a fugitive.
Dr. David M. Morrow, 75, a former Rancho Mirage resident, arrived at the Los Angeles International Airport on January 23, 2020. During a court hearing the next morning, United States District Judge Josephine L. Staton ordered that Morrow immediately begin serving his prison sentence.
“This individual thought he was above the law and when he was caught in this massive scheme, took enormous steps to skip the country,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “Good work to the investigators who worked this case and those who facilitated his extradition to see that justice is served.”
In September 2017, Judge Staton sentenced Morrow in absentia to 240 months in federal prison for running a scheme that duped health insurance companies into paying tens of millions of dollars for cosmetic procedures with false claims that procedures being performed were medically necessary. When the sentence was issued, Morrow had been on the run for four months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and filing a false tax return.
Morrow fled the United States along with his wife, Linda Morrow, 67, who was deported by Israel last July. Linda Morrow is facing a 31-count grand jury indictment that charges her with participating in the $50 million scheme run through The Morrow Institute (TMI) in Rancho Mirage. In a separate case, she faces contempt of court charges for fleeing the United States while free on bond in the health care fraud case. Her trial date in the contempt of court case is June 16.
Linda Morrow was the executive director of TMI, while David Morrow, a dermatologist-turned-cosmetic-surgeon, was the owner. The Morrows oversaw a scheme in which TMI submitted millions of dollars in claims for procedures that were certified as “medically necessary” – but in fact were cosmetic procedures such as “tummy tucks,” “nose jobs” and breast augmentations. In some cases, according to court documents, patients underwent procedures they did not want in exchange for promises from Morrow that he would perform the cosmetic procedures that they really wanted. In other cases, Morrow performed procedures on certain patients who had not given informed consent, which “resulted in ongoing medical problems or disfigurement.” Evidence presented during Morrow’s sentencing hearing also showed that Morrow had paid a patient for undergoing surgeries that were billed to insurance.
Authorities believe the Morrows fled in May 2017. Prior to becoming fugitives, they failed to report to court officials, among other things, the sale of their $9.45 million home in Beverly Hills.
Court records show that, prior to the Morrows fleeing to Israel, they transferred more than $4 million dollars to Israeli bank accounts using the names of third parties. Recently filed court documents detail how both Morrows used fraudulent Mexican passports – with their photos, but other persons’ names – to enter Israel, and after they entered Israel, they applied for Israeli citizenship using those fraudulent identities.
When the Morrows were arrested in Israel last year, they were no longer using the fraudulent Mexican identities, but were living under different fake identities and were using fraudulent Guatemalan passports. When Israeli law enforcement arrested Linda Morrow, she falsely claimed that her name was “Hannah.” Court documents also show that FBI agents have determined that the Morrows used an Israeli attorney and others in Israel in an attempt to launder more than $2 million.
Morrow was transported from Israel by the United States Marshals Service.
The investigation into the Morrows and TMI was conducted by the FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation, and the California Department of Insurance.