Slip-and-trip shakedown bilks innocent businesses

2020 Hall of Shame

Bryan Duncan spearheaded a sprawling $31.7-million slip-and-fall ring in New York City. It was one of the largest such insurance shakedowns ever. Call Duncan chairman of the hoard.

The bloated crime ring spread like spackle: Duncan helped recruit hundreds of low-income New Yorkers — off the streets and from homeless shelters — to stage phony slip-and-trip injuries outside of innocent restaurants, dry cleaners and other businesses.

Duncan unleashed a torrent of insurance claims for the phony falls, fake aches and setup surgeries on uninjured limbs and joints. 

Many street people were forced into painful and life-altering surgeries, to increase payouts for the false insurance lawsuits. Some “patients” endured two operations.

Endured unneeded surgeries

Duncan bribed his recruits with cash. Many were paid extra to get unneeded and invasive surgeries to inflate the insurance payouts. Surgeons wielded scalpels for spinal disc removals, spinal fusions, and knee and shoulder operations. 

Duncan recruited patients, took them to medical and legal appointments, identified accident sites, paid the recruits, and coached them how to fake injuries. 

The recruits were stationed in front of businesses around the city. They were shown how to fall into potholes and act hurt. Or seeming trips on cracks in sidewalks. 

The setup stumbles seemingly caused throbbing injuries to sensitive body parts that plausibly needed surgery — knees, shoulders and backs. All the better to steal large insurance payouts.

Lawyers sued innocent businesses

The “victims” were shuttled to chiros and doctors for the expensive, insurer-paid surgeries and other treatment. Many patients even went under the knife twice, doubling the insurance payouts.

The low-income recruits were desperate for money. Duncan’s ring paid them tiny sums to get cut up — $1,000-$1,500 per surgery. The recruits needed the little windfalls to survive, no matter how much the surgeons sliced them open.

Lawyers also entered the picture, and now the big money flowed. The lawyers sued the victim businesses and their insurers. They sought insurance payouts for medical bills, plus claimed pain and suffering. 

The prodigious insurance swindle finally stumbled, fumbled and fell flat. It fell victim to colony collapse disorder. The ring was too large and had too many players to stay secret indefinitely. 

Duncan received 80 long months in federal prison.

“The whole essence of this conspiracy is to find the down-and-out, find the desperate, find the homeless,” said U.S. District Court Judge Sydney H. Stein. “No person who has a job and education can support his or her family even minimally is going to say, ‘Oh, I’ll undergo unnecessary back surgery for $1,000.’ These people were vulnerable and desperate.”