A former Philadelphia judge and personal injury attorney has been disbarred on consent by the state Supreme Court.
Pending against the ex-judge was a petition for discipline stemming from charges that he created fictitious medical records indicating injuries and treatment for several of his clients whom he had referred to a chiropractic office he co-owned.
The Supreme Court accepted the resignation of the 87-year-old attorney and former judge, Bernard Snyder, on September 18.
In its petition for discipline, the board detailed a series of violations allegedly committed by Snyder in connection with the chiropractic office, Philly Family Practice Inc.
“Philly Family, its owners, and its employees prepared falsified medical records containing fictitious complaints of patients; fictitious findings of injuries; and fictitious examination documentation identifying physical findings,” the petition said. They “intended to create falsified medical records, knew the false nature of the medical records, and conspired and agreed to create the falsified medical records with the purposes of securing payment from insurance companies and assisting the successful prosecution of claims and lawsuits of its patients.”
The Legal previously reported that Snyder was a defendant in the civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act suit in which State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Co. accused him of being the mastermind of a massive fraud scheme to pad auto accident cases with bogus medical records.
In its civil RICO complaint, State Farm alleged that Snyder conceived of the scheme to secure fraudulent medical records in multiple auto accident cases by establishing a medical office that routinely provided him with bogus records for treatments that were never provided.
Snyder stipulated at trial that the medical records were fraudulent, but testified that he was unaware of the fraud until it was exposed by State Farm’s investigation.
But State Farm’s lawyer, Cy Goldberg, told the jury that Snyder’s claim of ignorance of the scheme could not be believed.
Goldberg, who was assisted in the trial by attorneys Richard M. Castagna and Matthew A. Moroney, said in his closing argument that the evidence showed that Snyder “was involved from day one” and that he was “the brains” behind the entire scheme.
Snyder had invested about $35,000 to start Philly Family Practice, Goldberg said, but concealed his interest in the medical office by persuading a friend to sign the papers that incorporated the practice.
Soon after the office was opened, Goldberg said, Snyder was sending about 40 percent of his clients there.
In many of the cases, Goldberg said, the medical records would follow an identical formula — indicating that the patient had lower back and neck injuries and had received multiple treatments at each visit.
At trial, one of Snyder’s former clients testified and said she had informed Snyder that the medical records were false.
Snyder’s accountant also testified and said he was hired by Snyder to draw up the papers to incorporate the medical office.
But Snyder testified that he had no financial stake in the medical office. Instead, Snyder said his only involvement was to loan $20,000 to a friend, Cheav Moeung, who in turn used the money to help his son, Hov Moeung, open the medical practice.
Goldberg questioned Snyder extensively on cross-examination about the loan and asked why Snyder had failed to turn over the checks in discovery, forcing State Farm to find the evidence itself by securing bank records.
In his closing statement, Goldberg told the jury that Snyder had changed his story several times and that the financial transactions used to start the medical practice had been carefully designed to avoid creating any “paper trail” that would reveal Snyder’s financial stake in the practice.
Snyder’s lawyer, Anne M. Dixon, told the jury in her closing argument that State Farm’s evidence fell short of proving the only important issue in the case: whether Snyder was aware of the fraud.
“You’ve got some dots, but they don’t connect,” Dixon said.
After a three-day trial before U.S. District Judge Juan R. Sanchez of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the jury deliberated less than an hour before handing up a verdict that found both Snyder and Hov Moeung liable for statutory insurance fraud and a civil RICO conspiracy.
In answers to a series of questions, the jury found that Snyder had knowledge of the fraudulent nature of the medical records at the time he presented them to State Farm and that Snyder was an owner or administrator of the medical practice.
The jury awarded State Farm $685,300 in compensatory damages and a total of $800,000 in punitive damages — $400,000 against Snyder and $200,000 each against Moeung and Philly Family Practice. The jury also said Snyder and Moeung were responsible for the punitive damages against the practice.
In 1985, Snyder became the first judge in Philadelphia history to fail to win retention after serving a 10-year term. And when he attempted to win his seat back in 1987, he was removed from the ballot by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in an order that said he was permanently barred from seeking judicial office due to his violations of judicial ethics in handling a libel case.
Snyder could not be reached for comment.