Surgeon promised false beauty

Israel packed celebrity skin doctor David Morrow back to the U.S. to serve 20 years of federal jail time for slicing and dicing his way to a $50-million attempted defrauding of insurers for glam-boosting nose jobs and tummy tucks camouflaged as life-saving surgeries.

Insurance will pay everything, the prominent Rancho Mirage, Calif., cosmetic surgeon promised. Patients believed Morrow, and his scalpel swung like a samurai sword. Morrow ransacked health insurers, billing them for $50 million. At least $25 million cascaded into his bank accounts.

Yet insurance generally doesn’t pay to beautify bodies. It’s elective surgery. So Morrow disguised the plastic surgeries in a deep forest of false diagnoses.

Tummy tucks magically became insurable hernia repairs or abdominal reconstructions. Morrow billed nose jobs as fixing deviated septums. Breast lifts were surgeries for “tuberous breast deformities.”

Pressured patients into surgery

Morrow also trumped up test results, medical notes and surgical records to back up his fantasy world. He even covered up the text of records for a patient’s “abdominoplasty” (tummy tuck) — hand-writing “umbilical & ventral hernias” on top of the original wording.

Some patients were pressured to get surgeries they didn’t want in exchange for “free” cosmetic upgrades.

Many trusting patients still believed Morrow played by the rules, giving them honest surgery and lodging honest insurance billings.

On top of concealing cosmetic operations, Morrow also billed insurers for phantom surgeries. He stole patient names, medical information and signatures — their medical identities — and invented records that claimed successful surgeries the patients medically needed.

Morrow billed up to $150,750 for a single surgery, and as much as $700,000 if he foisted several procedures on a patient. Sadly for some patients, he botched their procedures. They ended up disfigured or were forced to live with ongoing discomfort.

Insurance money and beautiful bodies made Morrow a wealthy celebrity surgeon. The now-shuttered Morrow Institute was his hub of, literally, operations. He called himself “One of the top cosmetic surgeons in the world for skin and facial rejuvenation.”

Flaunted his wealth

Morrow’s Pinterest postings are a self-backslaping ode to status and wealth. He created a line of beauty cosmetics, and claimed the world’s first laser face lift. He and his wife Linda founded a Jewish day school. They also donated heavily to the symphony and other cultural causes.

The couple spent comfortable off-hours in their $9.5-million mansion, and had a fleet of luxury cars.

Investigators and federal prosecutors unraveled the deception. Morrow pled guilty, then bolted to Israel in 2017 with Linda. They’d sold their mansion and cars, and wired millions of dollars into secret bank accounts. Morrow was handed 20 years in federal prison while they were in hiding.

Israel sent Morrow back to the U.S. in 2020 after two years on the run. Morrow is serving his hard time. Linda who was sent back earlier, faces federal trial for her suspected role.

Acting U.S. Attorney Sandra R. Brown clearly saw the future when Morrow was given those 20 years while on the run in 2017.

“When he is taken into custody — and he will definitely be captured — he will serve the lengthy sentence he deserves as a result of his greed and fraud,” she said at the time.

About the author: Jim Quiggle is director of communications for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud