A Thief River Falls man, who formerly worked as a chiropractor in Thief River Falls, has been federally indicted for allegedly billing insurance companies more than $3.1 million, including bills for hundreds of treatments that weren’t provided or were overbilled, over a two-year period. The U.S. Attorney’s Office alleges that the insurance companies then paid Dr. Steven Richard Wiseth, 35, and his business, Health Quest Family Chiropractic, more than $1.1 million.
Wiseth has been charged with six counts of wire fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft, according to a press release from U.S. Attorney Erica H. MacDonald’s office. Wiseth appeared Wednesday in U.S. District Court in St. Paul. The U.S. Marshals Service doesn’t provide mug shots to the media.
Wiseth allegedly orchestrated a scheme to defraud health insurers by submitting and causing the submission of false and fraudulent claims for chiropractic services from about March 2013 through April 2015.
At the time, Wiseth owned Health Quest Family Chiropractic in Thief River Falls. That office closed several years ago. Wiseth voluntarily surrendered his Minnesota chiropractic license in 2017, according to the Minnesota Board of Chiropractic Examiners website. As part of that agreement, Wiseth would be able to reapply for reinstatement of his Minnesota license three years later if he met several conditions. He was also required to notify the board if he practiced chiropractic care in another state. The surrender stemmed from the same allegations related to this case. Wiseth continues to operate Health Quest Family Chiropractic in Grand Forks, N.D.
Wiseth’s scheme was allegedly dependent on maximizing patient volume at Health Quest, and he held promotional events where he gave away free food and drink, prizes and gift certificates to induce current and prospective patients to visit Health Quest. After the promotional events, Wiseth billed insurance companies for chiropractic services to substantial numbers of people who attended the events, including billing for services that were not provided. In some cases, Wiseth used the personal and insurance information of attendees to bill the individuals’ insurance companies for services that were not provided, unbeknownst to the attendee. For example, on Feb. 13, 2014, Wiseth held a promotional event at Health Quest that he referred to as “ValenSpine’s Day.” Wiseth submitted bills to insurance companies representing that he had treated approximately 219 patients on that day, purporting to have provided about 641 services.
Wiseth also allegedly submitted false bills for services by misrepresenting the services that were actually provided to patients. For example, he routinely submitted false bills for treatment with a “wobble chair,” which is a device intended to develop core strength. Wiseth falsely represented to insurers that the services were performed for at least eight minutes under the direct supervision of a healthcare professional when, in fact, Wiseth merely stocked his clinic’s waiting room with wobble chairs so that patients would sit in them while waiting for their appointments.
Wiseth would then bill the insurance companies. The U.S. Attorney’s Office alleges insurance companies were billed more than $3.1 million over the two-year period. That amount included bills for hundreds of treatments that were not provided or were overbilled. The insurance companies then paid Wiseth and Health Quest more than $1.1 million.
This case was the result of an investigation conducted by the Minnesota Commerce Fraud Bureau and the United States Postal Inspection Service.