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Father, Son Face Over 90 Years For Scam Targeting American Airlines Workers

Photo caption:

Photo by Mary Altaffer AP

An American Airlines taxis in 2012. According to prosecutors, beginning in that year, the brother-son duo targeted American Airlines employees who worked the tarmac, telling them they had sustained hearing loss and needed hearing aids.

A father-son duo from Dallas have been convicted of running a multimillion-dollar scam to convince American Airlines employees they suffered from hearing loss — and to profit off the health care claims they filed for their false diagnoses. The verdict handed down by a jury last Thursday could mean more than 90 years in federal prison each for Terry Lynn Anderson, 67, and his 37-year-old son Rocky Freeland Anderson.

The scam described by prosecutors was fairly simple.

They say the company owned by the two men, Anderson Optical & Hearing Aids Center, marketed a series of hearing tests with the lure of free luxury eyewear and $100 gift cards. Then, after a test that would last no more than five minutes, the Andersons would tell their new patients they needed hearing aids — devices which, the Andersons allegedly added, would be provided at no extra cost.

Often, however, those hearing aids would never arrive.

The scheme, according to prosecutors, began around 2011 and specifically targeted American Airlines employees who held company-sponsored insurance plans through Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas. Prosecutors say they eventually even "brought their fraud scheme into American Airlines' airport facilities," where they would attract long lines of mechanics and other employees who worked on noisy airport tarmacs.

Compared with the simplicity of the scheme, the numbers alleged in the indictment are vast.

"Anderson Optical & Hearing submitted claims to Blue Cross for hearing aids on behalf of American Airlines employees totaling more than $27 million," the Department of Justice said in a statement announcing the verdict. "As a result of these claims, Blue Cross paid Anderson Optical & Hearing more than $16.7 million."

Attorneys representing the Andersons did not immediately respond to NPR with comment. Both men denied the charges in court.

All told, a jury found father and son each guilty of at least eight counts of health care fraud, a count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and four counts of aggravated identity theft. The father was also found guilty of two additional counts of health care fraud.

The maximum penalties associated with each crime, when stacked together, amount to more than 90 years in federal prison for each man.

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