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On the Run: Valley plastic surgeon lives large, disappears with millions

Authorities claim massive deception by couple

Valley plastic surgeon and wife live large disappear with millions

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. - First do no harm is one of the guiding principles for physicians.  But a valley doctor violated that oath many times, over many years, in many ways.

Plastic surgeon David Morrow and his wife Linda are now on the run.
CBS Local 2 stands for you, investigating the scope of the crimes committed and where the couple may be now.

If finding cosmetic surgeon Dr. David Morrow and his wife Linda was as easy as knocking on the door of their daughter's home in Beverly Hills, the feds would have found them by now.

"They are going to hit the radar screen," asserts Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. Attorneys Office.

For the first time, officials from the U.S. Department of Justice gave an on camera interview about the massive case that has kept federal investigators busy for the better part of 10 years.

"Over the last couple of decades this is the largest health care fraud scheme we have seen in the Inland Empire," states Mrozek.

The Morrows were fixtures on the prolific plastic surgery scene in the Coachella Valley.  The Morrow Institute in Rancho Mirage agggressively scouted for candidates through infomerials, fliers and even receptions targeting teachers, water district employees and local police officers, all with "good insurance."

Federal officials say Dr. Morrow, with the help of Linda and many on his staff, got insurance to pay for thousands of hernia and breast reduction surgeries that were really, "tummy tucks.  Breast augmentation.  Vaginal rejuvenation.  Things that people do to enhance their appearance and how they feel about themselves," explains Mrozek.

An investigation by the FBI, IRS and the California Insurance Department revealed many patients underwent five or more surgeries within weeks.

"Dr. Morrow and his associates often used a very heavy hand to coerce these people to undergo unnecessary procedures," says Mrozek.

Prosecutors interviewed hundreds of patients who said they did not want or need up to one in five surgeries, with Dr. Morrow threatening to hold back the desired procedure if they tried to back out.

In less than three years, the Morrow Institute had billed more than $84 million to companies like Anthem Blue Shield and self-insured local municipal agencies, and been paid out more than $22 million.
 

Mrozek says there was a two sided set of victims.

"The insurance companies, who lost the money, and the patients who suffered harm as the result of the procedures."

Procedures in which "patients had body parts moved around without their knowledge or authorization," according to court documents obtained by CBS Local 2.

One woman says Morrow left her with "excruciating pain in her ear," forced to use q-tips to blow her nose, when unknown to her, "a piece of cartilage from her ear was taken to form the nose.

Another patient says simply, "I want a belly button back."

Eventually a grand jury indicted the Morrows on mail and tax fraud charges.  David Morrow took a deal.

Just three days after pleading guilty, David Morrow gave up his rights to a home on Bedford Drive in Beverly Hills, to an LLC managed by his children, who then sold it to another LLC that same day for nearly $9.5 million.

The case against Linda Morrow

An investigation by CBS Local 2 shows the doctor and his wife had taken pains to pave their way out of town during the investigation, setting up trusts and limited liability corporations, and shuffling management of those LLC's among their children.

The Morrows used post office boxes in Beverly Hills and the Coachella Valley, and attorney's addresses in Los Angeles to conceal ownership.  Court documents allege the Morrows sold or gifted cars to family, and tried to hide ownership of expensive properties in Beverly Hills and Hawaii.

 "A lot of people quitclaim property because they don't want to be held liable for what comes after they quitclaim it," explains Palm Desert attorney Jim Ferguson.

Ferguson says while using LLC's is perfectly legal, and even common, the paper trail in this case, suggests,"where there's smoke, there's fire."

In the months leading up to David Morrow's sentencing, authorities realized the couple was missing, along with nearly $2 million in cash.

We asked how the Morrows got away.

"That's a good question that I can't answer," says Mrozek.  "We are continuing to unravel where all that money went."

CBS Local 2's Brooke Beare made multiple attempts to reach the Morrow's physician daughter Ariella and her three siblings over the phone, in person and on social media to ask about their parents, who have now been on the run since May of 2017, which is also the last time a family photo appeared on Facebook.

Only their son Josh responded, to say "no comment."

Morrow skincare still sells products online.  The corresponding address leads to a P.O. Box in Palm Desert.  The company's bookkeeper also gave us a "no comment," as did the Morrow's criminal defense attorney, Nathan Hochman.

David Morrow surrendered his passport, but theories abound as to where the couple is hiding.

"I cannot tell you we believe they are in Israel or any other country, or even in Riverside County," says Mrozek. We will find them and we bring them back for justice."

CBS Local 2 also learned authorities have received evidence that's given them an idea of where the Morrows may be, but say it's an active and ongoing investigation.

The case against Linda Morrow is still pending.  She was indicted a second time, when additional counts were added.    

Morrow lost his medical license in December 2017 after he was sentenced in absentia to 20 years in federal prison.

Got tips about the whereabouts of David and Linda Morrow?

"We are actively seeking their arrest and urge anyone with information to contact the FBI," said FBI spokesperson Laura Eimiller.  Anyone can call 24/7 with info at 310-477-6565."


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