You know how violent felons treat pedophiles particularly bad in the prison system? I wonder if fraudsters reserve special scorn for people who use their disabled children as part of the scam? A former partner at Morrison & Foerster may soon find out. He’s been arrested for defrauding the state of California out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by way of scam utilizing his autistic kid. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

A former partner at a well-known law firm and his marketing consultant wife were arrested Wednesday on felony charges of bilking the San Francisco school district and private insurers out of about $400,000 via fraudulent bills for treatment of their autistic son, officials say.

The San Francisco couple, Jonathan S. Dickstein and Barclay J. Lynn, both 43, surrendered Wednesday and are expected to appear in court this morning for arraignment on 30 counts of fraud, theft and conspiracy, authorities say.

We can and will blame the alleged perpetrators of this fraud. But where was the government oversight?

The alleged fraud was so simple it’s surprising that state officials didn’t catch this earlier:

He and his wife had arranged for the home care of their young son through another school district before transferring to the San Francisco school district. Under state guidelines, school districts are obligated to provide or compensate parents for home education of autistic or other severely disabled children.

By law, parents are required to use licensed private educational providers to develop individual treatment plans that meet state guidelines for their disabled children.

Dickstein and Lynn had employed such a private provider, but in 2006, they created their own: Puzzle Pieces. Prosecutors said it was actually a dummy company that was not licensed to develop autism education.

So the state requires parents to employ a licensed service provider, the parents just made one up, and nobody checked? Are you kidding me. What, was Dickstein a fancy-pants lawyer and so the state just took his word for it? I bet if a black family or a poor family just made up an freaking company and told the state to pay for it, somebody would have bothered to double check.

(Note: I just watched that Law & Order where Paul Robinette comes back as a defense attorney with a non-ridiculous haircut and rails against inherent racial discrimination of child protective services, and I’m all fired up.)

In all seriousness, I’ve got to think Dickstein’s sterling credentials helped him pull off the alleged scam:

Until this year, Dickstein, who graduated from Stanford and then Harvard Law School, was a partner at the internationally recognized San Francisco firm of Morrison & Foerster, specializing in intellectual property issues and the law surrounding life sciences. He has since started his own practice, according to his Facebook page.

Despite that resume, his lawyer claims the couple was too absent minded to keep everything together:

Dickstein’s attorney, Garrick Lew, said the couple were devoted to their severely challenged son, but admittedly took efforts too far.

“They put a lot of work into getting whatever the child needed,” he said. “In the process of getting all those needs met, there were problems.”…

“They were dealing with multiple agencies,” he said. “Somehow things kind of went south. It’s really unfortunate for them, as people, and also for their kid.”

Bollocks. “Somehow things kind of went south,” my ass. You don’t become to be a partner in a major firm like MoFo if you are easily confused by paperwork. My mother works with autistic children on occasion (she’s a speech pathologist) and I’ve had the opportunity to meet many parents trying to care for these kids. Filing the appropriate paper work is never their problem. Just to survive in that situation, you’ve got to be a highly functional parent and/or couple. Things don’t get missed, things don’t get overlooked, they don’t accidentally end up with an extra $400,000 in their pockets.

It’s too bad and you hope the kid doesn’t suffer too much because of this alleged fraud. You also hope this case prompts the state of California to take another look at their records to make sure officials didn’t forget to do basic fact checking on behalf of some other well-to-do family.

UPDATE (9/17/10): Jonathan Dickstein has pleaded not guilty.

UPDATE (10/24/11): Jonathan Dickstein and Barclay Lynn have pleaded guilty.

S.F. lawyer accused of fraud in autism care [San Francisco Chronicle]


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