Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Kelly Soo Park Insurance Fraud Case, Pretrial 1 (Uwayday et. all & Arnold et. all)

UPDATE 10/7 accuracy, clarity
Tony Luke: $1,215,000 - Bonded out 10/26

Checking the LA County Sheriff's webside, the following defendants in this case have had their bail reduced or have been bonded out from custody.

Defendant Name / Previous Bail Bond / New Bail Bond Amt.
Maria Turley $21,500,000 --> $10,000,000
Jeff Stevens $18,500,000 ---> $10,000,000

Bonded Out From Custody
Tatiana Torres Arnold $2,730,000 --> Bonded out: 9/29
Yolanda Groscost $1,340,000 --> Bonded out: 9/30

UPDATE 9/29 1:24 pm LA Times story with grand jury testimony excerpts.

UPDATE 9/29 12:30 pm edited for spelling, clarity

The previous post on this case can be found HERE.

September 25, 2015
Case Introduction
This case consists of two indictments (BA425397 & BA435339) that were issued by a grand jury against 15 defendants. The defendants are charged with a massive insurance fraud and patient conspiracy scam, allegedly orchestrated by Dr. Munir Uwaydah. Two of the 15 defendants, Uwaydah and Wendee Luke, are not in US custody. Uwaydah fled the US in June 2010, soon after Kelly Soo Park was arrested for murder.

HERE is the LA County DA's press release on the case. It will give T&T readers some general background information.

In March 2008, Juliana Redding, 21, an aspiring model was beaten and strangled to death in her Santa Monica apartment. Two years later, Kelly Soo Park was arrested and charged with Redding's murder. T&T covered Park's entire murder trial. Park was Dr. Uwaydah's former officer manager and personal assistant. She was acquitted of 187 felony murder in June 2013.

Although this is not the typical case that T&T covers, I decided to attend this hearing and possibly cover the case because many T&T readers have an interest in Kelly Soo Park.

I learned from the LA County Sheriff's Inmate Locator Website that Park's next appearance would be in Dept. 109, Kathleen Kennedy's courtroom. It's not that surprising that the Superior Court assigned this complicated case to Judge Kennedy. The City of Bell corruption scandal case was held in her courtroom. In that case there were seven defendants. It's also the same courtroom, the same judge who presided over Park's murder trial.

Unfortunately, I could not stay for the entire hearing. With so many defendants, the hearing went into the afternoon session.

The Defendants
1. Munir Uwaydah (Supposedly arrested in Germany)
2. Paul Turley
3. Maria Turley (wife to Paul)
4. Marisa Schermbeck-Nelson
5. Peter Nelson (husband to Marisa)
6. David Johnson
7. Leticia Alvarez  Lemus
8. Jeff Stevens
9. Wendee Luke (daughter of Terry; believed to be living in Estonia)
10. Kelly Park
11. Ron Case

Tatiana Torres Arnold
Terry Luke (father of Wendee)
Tony Folgar
Yolanda Groscost

The 9th Floor
When I arrived on the 9th floor, many of Kelly Soo Park’s friends and relatives are already here. I see all the familiar faces from her murder trial. Her sister Kim. Her mother. Her aunt and other friends and relatives.

Park’s attorney Mark Kassabian is at the center of the hall. I don’t see George Buehler. There are attorneys that are here greeting people in the hallway. Most of the bench seats at this end of the hall are filled. There may be people from other courtrooms, but it’s too soon to tell. More of Park's friends arrive and exchange hugs and kisses.

There are also a lot of suited people in the hallway. They could be counsel or bail bondsmen. Attorneys are talking to people from the general public. Some people appear to be lost with the large amount of people in the hall. I have a feeling the courtroom will get packed quickly. I plan to take a seat as soon as the courtroom opens.

I observe Kassabian go over to speak to Kelly’s aunt. I get up from my seat to look down the hallway but don’t see Tom Chronister, Park's husband. He must not have arrived yet. More hugs are exchanged among Kelly's relatives and new arrivals. A couple brought a very young child. No more than a year old. I'm wondering if they are here for this case.

A tall balding man arrives. I ask myself, Is that the husband, the former Oxnard Police Commander? If it is, he looks a bit different since Park was acquitted of the murder charge. Interesting that Kassabian spoke to Kelly's aunt, and not Park's husband, but they could have spoken earlier, by phone.

More arrivals. More hugs being exchanged. I don’t think all these people will fit in the courtroom. I’m surprised there are no reporters here. I wonder if I'm the only one who will show up. I can't believe that. More people, more handshakes being exchanged.

Down the hallway comes attorney Anthony Brooklier, reporter Pat La Lama's husband. He must be representing one of the defendants.  He came and shook a man’s hand who was wearing sunglasses. The sunglasses wearing man could be a family member, or a bail bondsman. I also see the very tall Josh Herman. Herman bonded Park out during her murder trial.

Marissa Gerber from the LA Times arrives with a photographer. She tries the door, but it's still locked.

With 13 defendants appearing today (two defendants are not presently in the US) I’m not surprised so many people are here. Uwaydah is supposedly in custody in Germany. Wendee Luke is believed to be in Estonia. The US does have extradition treaties with both countries.

After awhile, I get up from my seat to stand by Marissa near the door so I can get my favorite seat, right by the power outlet.

Inside Dept. 109

The friends and family of the defendants swarm into the courtroom to grab a seat on the three long benches, since the first row is marked off limits. CBS 48 Hours producer Greg Fisher is here and he takes the empty seat to my right. 

The bench rows quickly fill up. I'd say, 70% of these people are here for Park. Inside the well of the court, there are so many attorneys it looks like standing room only. The bailiff tells people looking for a seat, 'If there are no seats for you you must step outside, unless you are a part of this case.' Every row except the front row is packed, which is blocked off.

8:42 AM
Former DDA Alan Jackson arrives. It's my understanding Jackson is representing Terry Luke. The DA's office has filed a conflict of interest motion to disqualify the Werksman-Jackson firm from representing defendants. Jackson's partner, Mark Werksman is representing Tony Folgar, but Werksman is not here today. Someone else from the firm is standing in for him. Jackson comes to the back of the courtroom where his support staff are seated and we exchange hellos.

More people arrive and the bailiffs try to pack the courtroom. The jury box is filled with attorneys. The gallery has counsel staff and bail bondsmen interspersed with the general public. A woman in the row of chairs set up behind the bailiff's box turns around and shakes the hand of the man's sitting to my left. She says, "Hi, I’m Wendy. I’m the sister-in-law." I don't know who she is related to, but the man beside me is with Jackson's firm.

A defendant is brought into court in a wheelchair. He's brought in through the door that goes back to the jury room area. He is wheeled across the well and back into the sheriff's custody area. I later find out that this is 80 year old Dr. David Johnson.

Jane Robison from the DA’s office arrives and tries to find a seat.

It took me several minutes to find Lonce LaMon from Adjuster.com. It's been over two years since I've seen her. LaMon has been chronicling Uwaydah's questionable business dealings ever since he fled the US in June 2010. [HERE is her story on this proceeding.]

The LA Times still photographer is in the back corner. They may put the cameraman in the corner by the jury box. It's a better angle to get photos of the defendants.

The courtroom is beginning to look like a big circus. It is worse than a sardine can in here. 

The bailiff's are now letting people sit in the first bench row. They are trying to jam more people into the courtroom. Still, I would say the majority of the people here are for Park.

Judge Kennedy Takes the Bench
It's 9:02 am. The court states, "We have this multi-defendant case on calendar. ... Defendants in custody are ..... Logistically, it will be complicated getting everyone in here at one time."

Judge Kennedy mentions something about a bail review report by defendants. However, because at the time they were requested, it was stated that none of the defendants wanted a personal interview at that point. Without a personal interview, to verify background [information?] their recommendation [for bail reduction] would be negative. Judge Kennedy continues. "So then I believe Judge Brandlin [Dept. 100, master calendar court] contacted many of the lawyers here. ... Many consented to an interview. ... I don't know that we've gotten any reports [yet]." 

Judge Kennedy speaks to her clerk for a moment and then addresses the parties again. "Although we don't have any at the moment we may get some by 10 o'clock or sooner. ... And none of you have seen what they say. ... I know that many of you have filed various motions today. [Some?] came by fax yesterday. ... I don't know what everyone's intention is with regards to bail motions today or 1275 hearings. ... I don't know to what extent you've exchanged documents with the DA. ... I do know we've already had some information ... with most of you ... I haven't seen you before. I don't know what communication you've had with the DA and who is ready to do what."

If there are any one of the defendants ... who is represented ...  in male in lockup here, that know what you want to do or if you know that you are not ready to handle bail or 1275 ... that would be the easiest to handle first of all. ... There are so many of you, ... and I don't know who all of you are. ... If any defense attorney speaks ... [say] your name and the defendant you represent."

A few of the counsel start to speak, one by one. One attorney just met with his client on Tuesday. Now he's on the service list. Defendant Ron Case's attorney is from the Alternate Public Defender's Office. The next attorney who speaks is for [Dr.] David Johnson. Deputy Attorney General Richard Marino for the California Medical Board. He filed a motion in respect to David Johnson.

Counsel for Paul Turley asks to approach off the record. Judge Kennedy has a sidebar with Turley's counsel. The DAG will possibly have additional charges ... or he might just be here to monitor the case.

Louis Shapiro representing the Nelson family. He asks the gallery if anyone is here from the Nelson family. Mr. Shapiro missed the last hearing since it was on Yom Kippur.

The sidebar is still on. There are people waiting in the ante chamber for an empty seat to open up. I see hard working Terri Keith from City News Service peeking through the window from the ante chamber. She can't get a seat. People are trying to leave, have their seat saved for them and come back in. The bailiff's appear to be getting frustrated with the people coming and going at will, and trying to find seats for people related to the proceedings.

Then something happens. A slew of attorneys from the well, file out of the courtroom, one behind the other like a marching line. I have no idea where they were headed. My best guess is, they were ordered to another courtroom to speak with the judge off the record. Now that Judge Kennedy is off the bench, the courtroom is boisterous and people are coming and going again.

There are some attorneys back inside the courtroom, and there are several groups of conversation, all going on at once. There are quite a few bail bondsmen in the gallery. The bailiffs are having a hard time keeping up with the phones going off by the general public. Phones are a big issue in Judge Kennedy's courtroom. If you are an attorney, you can use your phone. Everyone else, the phone must be completely off and out of sight. No exceptions. Reporters can use laptops, iPads, but they cannot transmit while inside the courtroom.

9:36 AM
Alan Jackson comes over to ask the gentleman seated next to me for the "177 pages." The man hands Jackson a very thick three ring binder. Then Jackson tells the man to stop speaking. He tells him, "Every other person you don't know, is a reporter ... and is writing down everything you say." I smile and chuckle a bit. After Jackson takes the binder I say to his staff member, "That's not really true. It's just that I know Alan."

The bailiff tells the gallery to quiet down again. I hear one of the court staff say to counsel, 'This is a bad day for the court." It could be, they were rejecting a tentative date for everyone to return.

It appears they are trying to find a court date that will work for all the counsel present. They might recess the jury trial that's currently in progress and this case would come in on a specific date. The bailiff asks everyone to be seated. The bailiff announces, "Counsel, the judge is coming out."

Judge Kennedy takes the bench and tells the room. "I've conferred with some counsel. ... I'm going to speak to everyone else as to the possible date[s?] and how to proceed."

There is a bit of discussion in the well with the court.  Several attorneys still need to speak to their clients. One of the attorneys speaks for the group and informs the court that one attorney has some issues with the general concept and objects to waiving time. They were discussing October 15 as a date to return without time waivers.

The court responds, "We can do that ... then you can discuss with your clients if they want to waive time. ... One other thing. I spoke with counsel in order to review rights in respect to 995 [filings] with the time then we can supplement it with any points and authorities, to look over the materials and work with that. ... What I mentioned to you and all counsel, understand ... in regard to 995 ... I don't want to read the grand jury transcripts so may times. ... [I] want the 995's filed together. The grand jury transcript is formidable and exhibits are even more formidable."

"With regard to anyone who does not want to proceed with a bail motion today ... we can handle those cases. ... In fact, if not taking time waivers [we] don’t need the defendants out. ... But they have family here so we could bring them out."

They will deal with male defendants first. Defense for [Peter] Nelson, he's prepared to waive. The Deputy Attorney General representing the medical board, mentions something but I miss it. Defense for Jeff Stevens is prepared for a bail motion today.

The court asks, "Who does not need to do anything but prepared to come back on October 15?"

There is one defendant with two attorneys, one from the alternate public defender's office (APD) and then there is a personal attorney for the same client wanting to handle the bail motion. I miss what this is all about. the APD counsel objects to the other counsel.

[Attorney] Mark Allen standing in for Mark Werksman. Continue for bail hearing for another date.  The court asks, "Anyone else besides those two? ... Nelson and Folgar, we can handle those first. ... Counsel ready?"

Allen, counsel for Folgar, is asking for a different date for a bail review. October 2. So each of these defendants, might have different bail review dates.  October 2 is changed to October 5. Allen also asks to be heard on that date regarding the people's motion to disqualify. The second client, Nelson, bail review on October 23. 

Ron Case will be next.  Case is brought out into the courtroom. He looks significantly aged from the photos I've seen of him online. The request is for a bail hearing on October 9 and pretrial on 15.

The court asks counsel in the well, "Is anyone else ready to handle their matter?" Judge Kennedy then asks her bailiff who are all the people in lockup. The bailiff mentions Turley. The court responds that his wife must be brought out at the same time.

DDA Lisa Kassabian enters and waits for her husband, Alan Jackson. We exchange a wave hello.

I believe the court asks again, "Anyone else whose defendant is in lock up who is ready to handle their matter now?" Someone in the well responds that they are still working on the Luke matter. It's decided that Luke will be handled at 1:30 pm. Johnson and Stevens are still in lockup. Both of those will take some time. Alan Jackson and his support staff leave. The bail motion on Stevens is next.

DDA's Cathy Chon and Dayan Mathai for the people. DDA Mathai outlines the fraud and Steven's participation. "... participated by feeding the engine of the fraud, by providing patients and making recommendations to Frontline personnel as to how a patient can be treated. ... it's all part and parcel of the scheme. ... Stevens participated in a bank takeover scheme. ... Doing that, could control how the money was moved."

The court asks how the 18.5 million bail was calculated.
The people respond. At the time that the indictment came down, the bail schedule is actually higher, [so the defendant's bail] is actually lower than the presumptive bail should be. ... By being set at that, the people are not asking to raise it to the presumptive bail because the grand jury just heard evidence from 21 individual patients that were victimized by these co-conspirators. ... Separate counts by separate victims on separate dates. ... 21 people were harmed by that in that they [performed] fraudulent surgeries ... [patients] that were cut open improperly by this defendant's actions. ... At the time that the indictment came down, the bail schedule is actually higher; [the bail] is actually lower than the presumptive bail should be. Because the grand jury heard 21 incidents, we are in no way saying it's limited to that. ... This was rampant. ... There were maybe hundreds of so called surgeries, because these are not what the patients intended and not what they signed up for. ... We selected 21 names for extensive grand jury, but we believe a vast number of people were harmed by this group. ... And because they were aggregated, true bail should have been [miss the amount].

The people continue. Mr. Moss [defendant's attorney] argued there was no high risk. The court should know, ... is that each of the defendants could be a flight risk .... Because of the amount involved .... hundreds of millions of dollars. ...

The conspiracy continues to this day. We've attached an insurance bill received, which shows on September 15, last Tuesday, the day that Mr. Stevens was in court, and most of these defendants in court, including Dr. David Johnson. An insurance bill from that date, that said he performed medical procedures on that date on the fifteenth. And it certified on the date that the date of service was that date and that's one bill. ... Even when they are in jail, they bill. 

These patients were never prescribed those medications. ... When you control the pharmacy and control the clinic and the patients were receiving medication ... were never prescribed or given instructions, we don't think we're being dramatic when we say there is real harm to the communities. ... The treatment of these patients and this continues to this day. ... The shell companies are still in existence. ... There are 15 names in this case. ... About another dozen names that have access to these accounts. ... We know Uwaydah instigated ... [and is a flight risk].

Judge Kennedy responds a bit forcefully, "Not only is he a flight risk, he fled!"  The DDA responds, "That's right. He fled through Mexico, not LAX. ... We are concerned to potential flight risk and the conduct that's been portrayed.

Defense attorney Moss argues for his client. "Your honor, these arguments are against Uwaydah. ... But this person is entitled to reasonable bail." 

I can no longer hear the defense counsel. There's so much noise in the courtroom.

Judge Kennedy states, "With regard to bail, I do have to assume the charges are true. I will reduce to 10 million and the rest [remaining?]."  Moss states they will challenge that. Judge Kennedy responds, "For now, I have to assume the evidence is true. I think that 10 million is enough. 1275."

The defendant is remanded. Return date is October 15.

Now the court is asking about Paul and Maria Turley. Over on my right, a bail bondsman is chatting about how the bonding laws have changed.  The Turleys are brought out. Defense filed a motion to ask the court to set bail over until Tuesday morning, Sept. 29. The court asks counsel how long they will need because she is in trial. Counsel responds they will need a short amount of time. After that, the next return date is October 15.

Both Turleys need to sign a document, that needs to be notarized for guardianship of their minor child. Defense has an individual in court [in the gallery] to get that done. After that's taken care of, the defendants will be remanded. The notary gets out of her seat, enters the well and notarizes the signatures of the defendants.

The next thing that is discussed is a protective order. The court states there was a disagreement [among counsel?] about some of the terms, at least at the present time.

The protective order was phrased with the caveat that there would be further litigation and discussion in the future .... and the issue of revealing, ... certain information that .... it was phrased they were having to notify the DA .... and that we would let the DA know we had applied to the court ... and revisit it amongst ourselves and [have?] a solution next time.

The people respond. The protective order does actually require ... the order that was drafted today .... any attorney of [involvement] or working directly on the case ... shall not share or produce .... will not share information without permission from the court.

There's so much going on in the gallery, it's so noisy I can't follow what is being discussed in the well. I hear something to the effect, If the fraud is still going on today, they can claim problems in releasing discovery, but I don't know who says it. The next defendant, David Johnson is brought out in his wheelchair.

And this is as far as I got with the hearing. I had to leave early. Mr. Sprocket had a doctor's appointment and I didn't want to miss that. It's been 16 months since his heart attack and this was an important check up. Thankfully, he's still doing very well.

Kelly Soo Park
I was able to get an update about Park's hearing. After Park was brought out, she often looked back at friends and family in the gallery. Marissa Gerber's article in The LA Times has a photo of Park and states Park wept. Sources tell me that in the gallery, Park's mother Irene and her sister Kim cried as they left the courtroom after Park's hearing. Park returns on October 6 for [presumably] a bail motion.

All the defendants in custody will return to court on October 15. However, some defendants will be returning sooner, most likely for bail motions.

The next post on this case can be found HERE.

Upcoming Hearings Before 10/15
09/29 Maria Turley
09/29 Tatiana Torres Arnold
09/30 Yolanda Groscost

10/05 Tony Folgar
10/06 Kelly Soo Park
10/07 David Johnson
10/09 Ron Case
09/25/15 LA Times - Judge calls operations by non-surgeon "horrible"
09/25/15 Yahoo News/AP - Unlicensed Worker Did Surgeries
09/25/15 - KPCC - Unlicensed Worker Did Surgeries in Scam


NancyB said...

Thanks so much, Betsey for your detailed updates on this case. I remain very strongly interested in how this will proceed and how it will be resolved.

Sprocket said...


I don't know at this point, how much of this case I will be able to cover, due to Gargiulo and Franklin. It's still in the very beginning stages, and will take some time to get to trial. I can't imagine that every single defendant will assert their right to a speedy trial, and it happens in 60 days. This huge case will take quite a while to get to trial.

It will be interesting to see how the bail hearings play out for Folgar on the 5th and Park on the 6th. Those I plan on attending. It's my understanding that the motion to remove counsel for Folgar and Luke will be argued on 10/5, but things may change before that.