The criminal mastermind behind a multimillion-dollar healthcare fraud scheme died at the age of 80 in 2015, before authorities could catch up to him, but his "disabled" son will pay a steep price.
Anthony Curtis Neal, 41, has been sentenced to a year and a day in prison for the role he played at 20/20 Eye Care in Gresham, Ore. The younger Mr. Neal ran the business operations for the ophthalmology center, which, authorities say, between 2007 and 2014, routinely billed payers for unnecessary tests performed on unwitting patients, billed for more expensive tests than the tests they actually administered, and double-billed payers.
Mr. Neal and his father, the late Dean E. Neal, MD, are also accused of defrauding the IRS of $817,000 in income taxes from 2009 through 2014 by funneling most of the facility's revenue to a straw company. They then used the hidden funds to pay for nearly $3 million in personal expenses, while ultimately concealing nearly $8 million in revenue.
When Dr. Neal died from a stroke, his son was left to take the rap. The younger Neal pleaded guilty to healthcare fraud in 2016 and earlier this month his lawyer argued for leniency, claiming that he suffers from autism spectrum disorder and that he was merely a "servant" for his "manipulative" and "monstrous" father.
His lawyer told the court that Dr. Neal abused his wife and son and was so "obsessed by his image" that when his young son reported that he'd been raped by an acquaintance, the father refused to report it, instead telling his son to toughen up. He showed the court pictures of teeth marks on young Anthony Neal's hands explaining that as a boy he began to chew on the back of his hands as a way of dealing with his father's abuse.
Dr. Neal also abused and raped his wife, said the lawyer, tying her up, and at times drunkenly stumbling into his then 13-year-old son's bedroom to demand that he go to his parents' bedroom and order his mother to have sex with his father.
According to the lawyer, Sharon Neal, Dr. Neal's wife, who listened to the testimony in court, filed a restraining order against her husband in 1997 and later filed for divorce, claiming that he was unstable, that he abused alcohol and that he had raped her. They remained married, however.
It was the years of abuse that motivated the younger man to go along with his father's scheme, said the lawyer.
Before sentencing Mr. Neal, U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones took a 10-minute break, saying, "This is about as tough as it gets." He went on to acknowledge that Dr. Neal was "about as evil a person as you can imagine, especially involving his disabled son."
But "you are not dumb," he told the younger man. "You were certainly under the thumb of your father, but you knew right from wrong. So you have culpability. You're vulnerable, without any doubt in my mind, but something has got to be done. My solution is not perfect."
In addition to one year and one day in federal prison, Mr. Neal will have 3 years of supervised release. He also must pay $1.7 million in restitution to Medicare and several private payers, and $817,378 to the IRS.