Vevay man at center of federal investigation in Las Vegas

758

In normally quiet Vevay, there’s not much talk of federal investigations and insurance fraud, but a federal indictment handed down last week puts a Vevay man right in the center of what law enforcement officers are calling one of the biggest insurance conspiracy cases known.

Howard Awand, 62, who moved to Vevay last year with his wife, Linda, and purchased the Rosemont Inn Bed and Breakfast in April of 2006, turned himself in to federal authorities in Las Vegas on Friday after a federal indictment was unsealed in that city on Friday afternoon. When officers with the Indiana State Police and other law enforcement agencies arrived at the Rosemont Inn on Friday, they were reportedly told by Linda Awand that her husband was on his way to Las Vegas.

At this time Howard Awand is the only person to have been charged in the conspiracy, which one Las Vegas television station called the “Medical Mafia”, with Howard Awand at the hub of the conspiracy.

Federal authorities have been investigating the situation for two years, and although Howard Awand was the only person indicted last week, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office are both expecting more indictments to follow. Howard Awand is expected to be formally arraigned in federal court tomorrow (Friday). He is expected to plead not guilty to all charges.

Bill Terry, Howard Awand’s attorney, said in an Associated Press article last week that he doesn’t understand the charges because, “You can’t have a conspiracy all by yourself.”

The charges involve conspiracy, mail fraud, honest services fraud, money laundering, and witness tampering.

In the indictment, Howard Awand, a medical consultant, was at the center of a multimillion dollar scheme that included paying kickbacks, inflating medical costs, and performing unnecessary medical procedures. According to the indictment, tens of millions of dollars may have been stolen from legal clients, injury victims, and insurance companies.

The indictment states that Howard Awand offered services to local personal injury law firms in Las Vegas agreeing to help him line up expert medical testimony to prove their cases. Howard Awand allegedly consulted with both the doctors and lawyers, but the FBI believes that he obtained cooperation by paying kickbacks to the doctors from the lawsuit settlements.

Howard Awand’s Nevada-based business, “Nevada Medical Consultants”, acts as a middle man between doctors and lawyers. Investigators say that the company and sub-companies set up numerous medical appointments for injury victims, then arranges for legal representation for the person.

In Nevada, it isn’t illegal for doctors to refer patients to lawyers, but it would be against the law if the lawyers then split their fees with the doctors, or if everyone worked together to jack up the medical bills of injured people.

Howard Awand is also suspected of rigging verdicts, sometimes arranging for doctors to work for both sides in cases – or not show up at all for court.

A Las Vegas television station’s investigation reported that Bill Terry stated in court on Friday that he believes other indictments are already written but remain sealed. Acting U.S. Attorney Steve Myhre is personally prosecuting the case.

Howard Awand was released on his own recognizance following his initial court appearance, with U.S Attorney Steve Myhre noting to the court that Howard Awand has claimed in the past to work for the CIA. According to the report, Howard Awand has told others that he has a badge that allows him to enter Area 51, and a special license plate that won’t allow Metro Las Vegas police to pull him over for anything.

What this all leaves in question is the fate of the Rosemont Inn and the Hall House in Vevay. Both properties could be seized by investigators until the matter is resolved, and could be sold or liquidated to recover monetary damages.