Fighting fraud with fire

By The West Virginia Record | Jun 9, 2006

We're encouraged that Congress is finally exploring the anatomy of America's great asbestos fraud. But much more heartening was the recent filing of yet another asbestos lawsuit itself.

This one thrusts the asbestos-accusing plaintiff's attorneys in the crosshairs. Rail giant CSX, which has paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in asbestos-related settlements, is charging Pittsburgh-based law firm Peirce, Raimond & Coulter with scheming to produce bogus x-rays that would show disease in the lungs of one of its employees, Ricky May.

Filed in Wheeling, the suit charges that May knew he was healthy, so he had his friend who had previously tested positive, Danny Jayne, impersonate him at am employee asbestos screening in 2000. May filled out the paperwork, while Jayne took the exam and got the x-rays.

The scam was a success. May got an $8,000 settlement from CSX, and the lawyers got their take.

But the company finally figured out the subterfuge last year and confronted the men, who both confessed. At least one of them is now poised to testify against the lawyers, charging they knew May's x-ray was a fraud but filed his lawsuit anyway.

Adding even more spice to the case is the prospect of finally hearing from the man who read those x-rays and many more for Peirce, Raimond & Coulter -- none other than Bridgeport radiologist Dr. Ray Harron himself. Since being accused of widespread fraud while on the stand by a Texas federal judge in February 2005, he's been mum, refusing interview requests and even passing on an invitation to explain his methods to Congress.

Not that Harron, a legendary asbestos-screening maestro of sorts to trial lawyers, likely minds much that his medical credibility is shot. The New York Times reports that he's responsible for at least 75,000 disease diagnoses, which it figures earned him $125 a pop. That's $9 million plus by our math, which explains how he can afford waterfront hide-outs in Key West, Fla., and Galveston, Texas.

Still left to be explained is how this whole asbestos debacle really played out on the ground. How many more fraudsters are out there like Ricky May and Danny Jayne? What conniving really went down between Harron and these law firms, which stood to make millions on his x-rays?

It's good know that Congress is demanding these answers, but even better to see that cheated companies like CSX are asking hard questions of these characters itself. Finally.

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