The Whistleblower blog was started in 2008. Look for posts by these contributors: James Eli Shiffer, Jane Friedmann, Brandon Stahl, Eric Roper and Alejandra Matos. | Check out the Whistleblower archive.

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Posts about Whistleblower

Have you been a target of health care scams?

Posted by: Alejandra Matos Updated: September 9, 2013 - 5:23 PM

The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota said consumers across the nation are receiving scam phone calls telling them that because of the Affordable Care Act, they need to provide personal or financial information to receive health coverage or to keep the coverage they currently have. 

Star Tribune reporter Jackie Crosby wrote about the agency's warning last week. The BBB of Minnesota told Crosby they didn’t know of any specific scams targeted at Minnesotans.

Some of you have reported to Whistleblower that swindlers posing as Medicare representatives have called seeking personal information, including bank account numbers, that they need before sending out a replacement insurance card.

Whistleblower wants to know if you have received any calls from people who claim they need your personal or financial information for health care coverage. Call reporter Alejandra Matos at 612.673.4028 or send her an e-mail to amatos@startribune.com. 

Introducing the Star Tribune's new Whistleblower

Posted by: James Eli Shiffer Updated: September 5, 2013 - 11:09 AM

I'm pleased to announce that Alejandra Matos is the new Whistleblower columnist. That probably doesn't come as a complete surprise, since you've seen her byline on Whistleblower stories and columns all year. But now she has officially taken the helm of our reader-driven investigative project, currently in its sixth year. 

Ale is a native of El Paso, Texas, who joined the Star Tribune as a health team intern in the summer of 2011. She returned in September 2012, and quickly distinguished herself by her talents at data visualization. She joined the watchdog and data team in January and has produced a steady stream of powerful investigative stories and interactive graphics, most recently Sunday’s “Price of a legislative seat” campaign finance tool.

Ale previously interned at the Boston Globe and The El Paso Times. She has a degree in multimedia journalism from the University of Texas at El Paso.

Ale is eager to hear about your story ideas. You can reach her at 612 673-4028 or, as always, whistleblower@startribune.com.

 

Real estate company fined for charging upfront fees

Posted by: Alejandra Matos Updated: August 19, 2013 - 3:03 PM

 A California-based real estate brokerage company engaged in unlicensed mortgage modifications in Minnesota and charged upfront fees for services that were never rendered, according to a Minnesota Department of Commerce enforcement action issued last month.

Commercial Loan Solutions LLC and its owners Charles T. Heppner and Benjamin Ackerman of Los Angeles were fined $25,000 for promising to modify mortgages in Minnesota and charging upfront fees in 2010 and 2011. The loans weren't modified, and the homeowners were denied a refund, according to the documents.

Commercial Loan Solutions is the latest company to be fined for failing to deliver on loan modifications and charging upfront fees, which is illegal in the state.

In May the Star Tribune reported the Department of Commerce had taken enforcement action against 36 individuals for violating mortgage modification laws.

Heppner and Ackerman were not licensed real estate brokers or loan originators, the documents said. A loan originator license is required to modify loans in Minnesota.

 

 

Bogus travel vouchers landing in Minnesota

Posted by: Alejandra Matos Updated: August 14, 2013 - 11:57 AM

Travel vouchers from American TAD, based in Arizona, are landing in mailboxes across the Midwest, according to the Better Business Bureau.

The letter, which states this is a "final notice," informs recipients that American TAD has been attempting to contact them on several occasions."Enclosed is your Travel Check Voucher. This Travel Check Voucher can be redeemed for a certificate for 2 round trip airline tickets anywhere in the continental US from any major international US airport," the letter says.

A Star Tribune reporter received one of these vouchers at her home and alerted Whistleblower. The supposed voucher had a $1,198 value.

The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota issued an alert on these vouchers in July, saying airlines such as US Airways and American Airlines are not affiliated with the offer in any way. In Arizona, 37 complaints have been filed with the BBB, and the consumer agency could not confirm a physical address for the company.

Dan Hendrickson, spokesman for the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota, said a volunteer with their organization called a number listed on the vouchers and was told she would have to attend a presentation to redeem her travel certificate, and the offer was only good for couples.
 

Here is a look at the voucher:

 

Chiropractors disciplined for substance abuse, sexual misconduct

Posted by: Alejandra Matos Updated: August 12, 2013 - 4:53 PM

In Sunday's column, I wrote about Dr. Patrick Corrick from Brooklyn Park, who was placed on a probationary license for physically assaulting employees at the African Assistance Program. The Minnesota Chiropractic Examiners Board, which oversees Corrick's license, also found problems with his billing practices.

The disciplinary action was handed out on Aug. 1. Here are three other chiropractors who faced disciplinary action earlier this month.

Nicholas John Froehling of Spring Park- $3,000 civil penalty; Stayed suspension, given probationary license
Froehling hired a new employee, who also became his patient, in April 2009. About two months later, Froehling "dated and engaged in a sexual relationship," which lasted for two years, the disciplinary action said. He was still still providing care to the patient.
In May 2012, Froehling also engaged in a relationship with another new employee. Their relationship lasted about a month, according to the disciplinary action.
The board suspended his license for 24 months, but the suspension was stayed after 14 days. Froehling was placed on a 36-month probationary license. As part of his probation, Froehling must enroll in ethics training, refrain from contact with the former employees and is not allowed to treat a female patient unless a third party is in the room.

James Patrick Mellin II of Edina - Stayed suspension, given probationary license
Mellin has a history of drug and alcohol problems, according to the disciplinary action. His license was suspended for not following the rehabilitation procedures outlined in a previous order issued by the board in 2007. His most recent suspension was stayed, and he was given a five-year probationary license.
From 1993 to 2007, "the board received four complaints from the public alleging that [Mellin] came to work drunk or hungover, came back from lunch smelling of alcohol or marijuana, and was witnessed smoking marijuana," the order states.

Timothy Devries of Edina - Voluntary surrender
The board was monitoring Devries for alcohol dependency, according to the disciplinary action. In April, Devries tested positive for alcohol. He voluntarily surrendered his license to practice. Devries may petition for reinstatement of his license at any time.
 

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