()

Former personal injury lawyer Joseph Haddad, who prosecutors say used his “bar license as a license to steal,” was sentenced Thursday to 51 months in prison for his role in an extensive insurance fraud scheme.

The 65-year-old Haddad, of Orange, was also ordered by U.S. District Judge Stefan Underhill to pay a $25,000 fine and to serve three years on supervised release.

“For at least four years, and perhaps much longer, and in hundreds of cases, the defendant, an attorney, used his bar license to steal, by illegally using runners to find questionable cases, by advocating his clients stretch treatment out to six months for each case to increase the medical costs … and by pushing the improper prescribing of narcotic pain medication to make a client seem more injured that he or she was,” according to the state’s sentencing memorandum.

Authorities said Haddad masterminded a scheme that included an unlicensed doctor and several chiropractors and netted $2.5 million in settlements. Haddad was originally charged with nine federal offenses and is the target of a civil suit filed by insurance companies. In all, seven people have now been convicted for taking part in the scheme.

According to authorities, Haddad and the others defrauded insurance companies by exaggerating the injuries that Haddad’s clients sustained in auto accidents and the cost of their medical care to justify larger monetary settlements with insurance companies.

The FBI probe that resulted in Haddad’s arrest – called “Operation Running Man” – included recordings made by an undercover special agent who faked an injury and met with Haddad and medical professionals who were part of the scheme.