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Allergy testing scam is alleged

February 16, 2007|Rudolph Bush | Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — Hundreds of people sought allergy treatment believing they were getting free tests in a scheme that cost insurance companies more than $1.5 million and put patients' health at risk, federal prosecutors charge.

On Thursday morning, federal agents arrested John Froelich, a 49-year-old nurse, and Paul Kocourek, 53, both of the Chicago area. Eight other people, including four doctors, also were charged.

Froelich is accused of leading a scam through a group of companies he operated as the American Institute of Allergy, which conducted business in Illinois, Indiana and Arizona and allegedly charged patients' insurance companies for tests it advertised as free.

According to a 42-page indictment handed down Wednesday, the American Institute of Allergy recruited patients at private gyms and firehouses, among other venues.

Patients provided information about their health insurance and had blood drawn for supposedly free tests.

Their blood wasn't submitted for testing until insurance companies agreed to pay, the indictment charges.

Some blood samples deteriorated during the delay, making test results unreliable, prosecutors charged.

The scheme began in 2000 and continued until early this year, prosecutors said.

Patients who tested positive for allergies were prescribed allergy shots, often without being evaluated by a doctor, prosecutors said.

In many cases, untrained employees gave patients the shots under unsanitary conditions, the indictment charges. And prosecutors say patients often weren't warned of the shots' health risks.

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