Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Local Prosecutor Honored for Insurance Fraud Interdiction Program
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
A national organization that fights insurance fraud yesterday presented its inaugural “Prosecutor of the Year” award to veteran Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Albert H. MacKenzie.
The award, presented by the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, a Washington D.C.-based association of insurers, consumer groups and government agencies, is believed to the only national award for insurance fraud prosecution from a national agency, a spokesman for the coalition said.
MacKenzie was in the nation’s capital to accept the award yesterday and could not be reached for comment.
He heads the district attorney’s fraud interdiction program, believed to be the first of its kind in the country. It was piloted by District Attorney Steve Cooley in 2004, based on a concept developed by MacKenzie, the District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
The program “starts with an approach used years ago to incarcerate notorious gangsters such as Al Capone—tax fraud,” the statement explained.
The theory underlying the program is that a substantial number of individuals who commit insurance fraud also fail to file income taxes or grossly underreport their incomes. Another basic premise of the program is that the tax fraud cases also can lead to discovery of other crimes such as money laundering and grand theft.
A coalition spokesperson said that MacKenzie’s strategy is “simple, straightforward, and devastatingly effective,” and that “the numbers speak for themselves.”
MacKenzie had a 100 percent conviction rate for fiscal year 2007, earning convictions for 15 defendants who were responsible for more than $20 million in bogus claims, his office reported.
Cooley praised MacKenzie as a “forward-thinking, resourceful prosecutor,” whose program merited recognition “not only because it protects government-funded health plans and private health insurers, but because it works on behalf of honest consumers and working families who are burdened with the rising cost of health insurance,” in a statement yesterday.
Dennis Jay, the coalition’s executive director, called MacKenzie’s strategy “a silver bullet in many insurance fraud cases,” in a statement, further opining that “prosecutors elsewhere should look closely at the tax angle as a new tool.”
State Controller and Franchise Tax Board Chair John Chiang, who partnered with the District Attorney’s Office to investigate tax fraud, said he was “proud to see the state and local governments working together to stop these serious crimes and protect individuals who depend upon accessible healthcare services.”
The Los Angeles County Quality and Productivity Commission also honored the program in 2006.
MacKenzie attended California State University, Long Beach and the Glendale College of Law. He spent two years in private practice before joining the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office in 1973.
He was honored as the Deputy District Attorney of the Year in 1996 by the Association of Deputy District Attorneys. He has had a variety of assignments in the office over the years, including the prosecution of Efren Saldivar, the former Glendale Adventist respiratory therapist who once called himself the “Angel of Death” and who pled guilty to murdering six elderly patients and attempting to murder a seventh.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company