Philadelphia, PA, April 8, 2009 – Attorney General Richard Blumenthal today announced an investigation – and issued an urgent warning to doctors and consumers – involving the sale of bogus medical board certifications.
Blumenthal began an investigation after receiving a complaint from the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM), one of the largest nationally recognized certifying boards for doctors.
Board certification is not required to practice medicine – as opposed to a valid state medical license, which is necessary – but certification measures expertise and quality in medical knowledge.
Certification is essential to recognition as a specialist, including admitting privileges at many hospitals, and assignment as a primary care physician for referrals by many insurance carriers.
Blumenthal's office has learned that an out-of-state individual known as Keith Alan Lasko – who also uses the names K. Lasko, Keith Ferrari, K. Ferrari, and KA James Windsor – has sold phony certifications to doctors in a variety of medical specialties in exchange for submitting only basic information and a substantial fee.
At least 130 more complaints have been reported, including at least one in Connecticut.
Lasko's alleged scheme particularly targets foreign-born or foreign-taught doctors who may be unaware of the proper certification process.
“Real and recognized medical board certifications require rigorous examination and education – not simply payment for a piece of paper,” Blumenthal said. “This scheme deceives patients and medical professionals, and endangers lives – misleading consumers into believing that their physicians possess a level of expertise that they lack.
“This alleged con artist used false names – for himself and for fictitious medical boards whose fake certificates he sold. Doctors face potential legal action if they misrepresent their credentials with phony certificates. These specialty-seeking doctors who paid substantial sums – $500 or higher – were typically foreign born or foreign educated, and now should know better.
“The scheme demeaned and degraded the good names and reputations of legitimate boards like the American Board of Internal Medicine, whom we thank for alerting us.
“Bogus medical certifications are deceptive and dangerous – a disservice to the entire medical profession. To be board certified, a physician must be trained and tested – a trust betrayed by this scheme.”
Christine K. Cassel, President and CEO of the American Board of Internal Medicine, said, “Board certification in a medical specialty should require a meaningful review of a physician's education and graduate medical training and a test of their knowledge through a psychometrically valid, secure examination. We applaud the Connecticut Attorney General for taking this important step to protect physicians and consumers from people or organizations offering fraudulent certification.”
Blumenthal has demanded information from Lasko, a Las Vegas resident, about all bogus certifications, including names and addresses.
Some of the bogus board names that Lasko offers include the American Board of Geriatric Medicine, the American Board of Geriatrics, The United States Medical Specialists Federation, the American Board of Diabetes, the American Academy of Cardiology, the American College of Christian Physicians and the American Academy of Oncology. None of these entities are peer-recognized medical boards.
Lasko allegedly solicits physicians by mail, and offers to provide them with certification in a particular medical specialty for a significant fee (in some cases, $500) and only basic information about their practice. The certifications possess no professional or legitimate value.
Legitimate medical board certifications generally require a significant amount of training and testing, as well as a thorough medical background review.
Blumenthal said consumers should always research and seek references in selecting a physician.
Doctors or consumers who believe they were victimized by this or a similar scheme should immediately report the incident to the Attorney General's Office by calling (860) 808-5420.
ABIM Board Certified Doctors Make a Difference
Internists and subspecialists who earn and maintain board certification from the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) differentiate themselves every day through their specialized knowledge and commitment to continual learning in service of their patients. Established as an independent nonprofit more than 80 years ago, ABIM continues to be driven by doctors who want to achieve higher standards for better care in a rapidly changing world. Visit ABIM's blog to learn more and follow ABIM on Facebook and Twitter. ABIM is a member of the American Board of Medical Specialties.