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5 ARRESTED IN WORKERS' COMP FRAUD.

Byline: - Troy Anderson

An Encino attorney and four other people were arrested Thursday in a workers' compensation scheme that involved the theft of more than $120,000 through self-referrals of cases, authorities said.

``You can't refer to yourself because it's a double-dealing type of thing where you get a legal fee and then refer people to a rehabilitation center you also have a financial interest in,'' said Tom Higgins, head deputy in the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office's Workers' Compensation Fraud Bureau. ``The opportunity for fraud and deception is very high.''

Arraignment is scheduled for today for Sami Yasharpour, 43, of Brentwood; his paralegal, Jose Cruz Casas, also known as Jose Cruz Casas Curiel, 56, of Panorama City; and the three other defendants.

Each is being held in lieu of $240,000 bail on charge of grand theft and conspiracy to commit workers' compensation insurance fraud.

Also named in the felony warrant were Javier Casas, also known as Javier Casas Morales, 32, of Van Nuys; Ernesto Espinosa, 53, of Whittier; and Juan Francisco Leal, also known as Francisco Diemecke, 35.

Javier Casas is the son of Jose Casas. Espinosa and Leal are vocational rehabilitation counselors.

Besides conspiracy and grand theft, Leal was charged with additional counts of grand theft and insurance fraud. Authorities said the charges stem from alleged crimes between 1997 and 2001, when Leal was not associated with his co-defendants, authorities said.

Officials said Yasharpour, whose Encino law office who principally handles workers' compensation cases, unlawfully referred clients to California Rehabilitation Consultants, a business he set up with Jose Casas, and to a successor business called Southern California Vocational Rehabilitation Consultants.

The ownership interest in the business was concealed from workers' compensation insurance representatives, authorities said.

The investigation was done by the District Attorney's Office's Bureau of Investigation, which has investigators assigned to the various fraud divisions within the District Attorney's Office.

If convicted, each defendant faces more than five years in prison.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 4, 2003
Words:326
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