By Debby Abe
A 41-year-old Bremerton man faces 25 felony charges alleging he faked on-the-job injuries to fool hospitals and clinics into prescribing him narcotics.
Robert B. Boyer, Jr., is accused of visiting more than three dozen emergency rooms and urgent-care clinics in Pierce County and elsewhere in Western Washington to get prescriptions for Vicodin, Percocet and other painkillers, according to charges filed recently by the Washington Attorney General’s Office.
Pretending to be an ironworker, Boyer showed up with visible cuts and other injuries that he claimed to have suffered in construction accidents from November 2012 through February 2013, charging papers said. Each time, medical staff treated Boyer and prescribed him painkillers.
At most of the hospitals and clinics, authorities allege, Boyer gave false names, false birthdates and false Social Security numbers to open workers’ compensation claims with the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).
L&I covers medical expenses in legitimate claims for workplace injuries. In these cases, however, Boyer left hospitals and clinics with more than $134,000 in unpaid medical fees, charging papers said.
Boyer faces 15 counts in Pierce County and 10 counts in King County of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud. Pierce County and King County superior courts have issued bench warrants on Boyer for failing to appear on the charges.
11 Pierce County facilities
The charges are the result of an L&I investigation that found Boyer filed 51 workers’ compensation claims by seeking treatment at medical facilities throughout Western Washington, from small locally owned clinics to multiple facilities in the UW Medicine, MultiCare and Franciscan health systems.
Facilities he’s accused of hitting in Pierce County include: Tacoma General Hospital, St. Joseph Medical Center, Occupational Medical Clinic of Tacoma, Allenmore Medical Center, all in Tacoma; Franciscan (St. Anthony) Prompt Care, St. Anthony Hospital, Gig Harbor Urgent Care, all in Gig Harbor; MultiCare Spanaway Urgent Care Clinic; MultiCare University Place Urgent Care Clinic; St. Clare Hospital in Lakewood, and Good Samaratin Hospital in Puyallup.
Showed no ID
A complicating factor in the investigation was that Boyer typically did not present any identification, taking advantage of medical providers’ duty to treat patients in an emergency, L&I investigators said.
In an interview in March, Boyer told L&I investigators he also knew his real name was in the Washington State Prescription Monitoring Program, which allows medical providers to see which controlled drugs have already been dispensed to individual patients.
During the investigation, health care providers asked L&I investigators how to deter this type of scheme. L&I encouraged them to verify the employment of patients claiming workplace injuries. If employment can’t be verified, providers can consider treatment options other than prescribing narcotics.
In addition, investigators said the facilities that photograph patients for patient records or that retain video footage of their emergency room for several months proved especially helpful in identifying the suspect.
“The best evidence we can use against persons committing fraudulent acts against hospitals and clinics is identification, whether it be a photo, a driver’s license or something else to connect him or her to the crime,” L&I investigator Nathan Kresse said. “That is the best way to track down and identify offenders.”