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7 Charged in Statewide Insurance Fraud Probe : Investigation: U.S. alleges scheme involved several legal offices and chiropractors.

September 29, 1995|DOUG SMITH and THOMAS S. MULLIGAN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Stanley Baumann's attorney declined to comment.

Banayan's attorney, Rex Beeber, said his client has done nothing wrong and that he expects to win an acquittal based on the counter-theory that the big insurance companies have subverted federal law enforcement.

"The insurance industry has used its great power of influence to get the federal government to treat a doctor as if he is a criminal," Beeber said.

He said Banayan primarily represents indigent clients in ethnic communities on a "lien" basis, meaning the doctor only collects a fee if there is a settlement.

The insurance industry has targeted Banayan, his attorney said, because he had the novel idea of organizing his forensics consultation business on a statewide basis and formalizing the billing process. Beeber characterized the fees his client paid to lawyers as legitimate business expenses that are "not the insurance companies' business."

If so, Linhardt countered, why were so many payments to lawyers made in cash or disguised?

Prosecutors on Thursday praised the insurance industry for playing a major role in the investigation, first by bringing the Baumann-Banayan operation to them about two years ago, and then by assembling computer records and civil depositions that documented the defendants' activities.

The case was presented in Sacramento rather than in Southern California because many insurers maintain their computer operations in earthquake-safe Sacramento, and investigators did much of their work at those facilities.

Layna Browdy, spokeswoman for the Automobile Club of Southern California, said the club began its own investigation after noticing that more than 400 cases had been filed against its insurance arm by Baumann's firm.

Times staff writer Max Vanzi in Sacramento contributed to this report.

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