Police suffer court setback in 'White Coat' scam

Judge delivered two major blows to the prosecution in the recent insurance fraud case.

Police were disappointed twice Thursday in court as Judge Liora Frankel delivered two major blows to the prosecution in the insurance fraud case that police have dubbed the "White Coat" affair. The first blow came when Frankel refused to lift a gag order on the names of the seven suspect doctors, whom police believe accepted bribes in exchange for writing false documentation and medical opinions, so that their "clients" could earn disability credit from the National Insurance Institute as well as from private insurance companies. When the doctors, many of whom are considered to be prominent in their fields, were arrested Tuesday, their attorneys jointly requested a gag order blocking the publication of the doctors' names or places of work. At this point, said one officer in the Investigations and Intelligence Division, investigators have gathered evidence pointing to the fact that suspects submitted both false reports of vehicle collisions as well as to the doctors in question having served as "tools" of the central suspect, Tzemach Yosef, and others, distributing false medical opinions to help other suspects receive disability credits. Frustrated police said that following the court ruling, the head of police investigations, Dep.-Cmdr. Yoni Dotan, submitted the police's opinion in writing regarding the release of the gag order barring publication of the suspects' names. Police said Thursday that the evidence that had been gathered included testimony by people involved on the days the crashes occurred, as well as the confessions of some of the doctors, who admitted to having accepted bribes in exchange for writing out fabricated opinions - sometimes without even having seen their "patients." The prosecution was further disappointed with the remand extensions granted by Frankel, who released one of the doctors to house arrest, even though the police requested that it be delayed until later in the evening. Two doctors' remands were extended - according to police, "only" until Friday, and two doctors' remands were extended to Sunday. Police said that by Thursday evening they planned to submit an urgent appeal to the Tel Aviv District Court regarding the doctors' release, as they believed that it could interfere with the investigation, which they emphasized was still ongoing. By Thursday, investigators had interrogated about 40 suspects and potential witnesses in the insurance fraud scheme, including people believed to have been unwitting second parties in staged car crashes.