By Michael E. Miller
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Sabrina Rodriguez
By Michael E. Miller
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Luther Campbell
By Kyle Munzenrieder
A police officer discovered Shapiro lying on the sidewalk, bleeding. He died five days later at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Three males — Jeffrey Hatcher, 19, Derrance Roberts, 17, and Antonio Williams, 15 — were charged with armed robbery and first-degree murder. Their case has not yet gone to trial.
While Shapiro was in the hospital on life support, Lewin filed paperwork with the state formalizing the advertising arm of the company. He called it 411-PAIN Advertising Group and listed himself as president, Shapiro as vice president.
With this company, Lewin could now attract other doctors to his network of chiropractic clinics. He charges them a licensing fee — he won't specify the amount — to join. They also "help with the advertising budget," he says. In return, clients are directed to their clinics when they call 411-PAIN.
"Our dynamic television and radio commercials will help you cultivate a client base that no competitor can rival," the advertising group's LinkedIn page promises. "Find out what it's like having personal injury attorneys in your area courting you."
Normally, a lone doctor running a small accident clinic would have to go find and hire a lawyer willing to file claims against insurance companies to make sure the patients' questionable medical bills were paid. By joining 411-PAIN, the LinkedIn page implies, more accident victims will flock to the doctors' offices. Personal injury attorneys will then "court" the doctors so they can file lawsuits on behalf of their patients and collect the legal fees.
Commercials are an essential part of 411-PAIN's business plan. In court documents, 411-PAIN says it has spent $13.2 million on advertising in the past dozen years. And since the advertising group was formed, 411-PAIN's business has gone gangbusters.
He also exponentially increased the number of clinics in the network owned by outsiders and pushed the company into other states. The 411-PAIN network now includes 36 clinics with about 100 chiropractors in Florida. Another 11 clinics employing about 30 chiropractors operate in Minnesota, Massachusetts, Tennessee, and Georgia, says Lewin's PR consultant, Ellen Schulman.
Dr. Barry Raxenberg, a Palm Beach County chiropractor who says he joined the network more than five years ago, is full of praise for the company. "It has been a tremendous boost to my business," he wrote in an email. "The number of patients treated by my clinic has increased significantly since being part of the 411-PAIN organization."
Raxenberg declined to specify how much he paid to join the network or the amount of money he contributes to the marketing campaign.
The legal arm of 411-PAIN has undergone a similar growth spurt. Lewin says this aspect of his business began when patients at the medical clinics began asking legal questions. The chiropractors would then refer them to lawyers.
Sohan and Rodriguez's lawsuit accuses 411-PAIN of "unlawfully solicit[ing] clients... on behalf of lawyers pursuing personal injury claims." Any company that refers people to lawyers is supposed to register with the Florida Bar. But for a dozen years, 411-PAIN did not. This May, the company finally complied. "In order just to be on the conservative side, we've gone ahead and registered," Perling says.
The lawsuit also says 411-PAIN "intentionally misled consumers into believing they are contacting a lawyer for legal services or a service that will explain to them their rights... when, in fact, they are contacting chiropractic medical clinics." Florida Bar rules state that advertisements for attorney referral services must not include "visual or verbal descriptions, depictions, or portrayals of persons, things, or events" that are "deceptive, misleading, or manipulative."
One 411-PAIN commercial features a white-haired man wearing a suit and tie who stands in front of a wall of legal books and says, "Insurance companies have attorneys working hard for them. Call 411-PAIN and get the right people working for you."
Lewin maintains that "our commercials are an accurate, true description" of the services offered. In recent months, the company has changed some of its ads to comply with the bar rules, adding disclaimers that identify it as a medical and legal referral service.
Lewin also flatly denies that the attorneys pay a fee to be part of the 411-PAIN network. That would violate bar rules. But he admits that the doctors and lawyers send each other business. They have "a reciprocal relationship," meaning that in some cases, lawyers refer patients to doctors and vice versa.
That raises the question of whether the referral service points patients to the best possible medical and legal services or whether it just drums up business for a specific network of doctors and lawyers.
For instance, a chiropractor may not be able to provide the best medical treatment to a patient. "Maybe I should be going to an osteopath, or maybe I should be going to a surgeon," says J. Robert Hunter, director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America. "I'd want to get advice on what is the specialty I need. If all they do is pump everybody into the chiropractors, that's not appropriate either."
Success has been good to Lewin. He owns three homes: a $1.2 million house in Davie, a $416,000 condo in Hollywood, and a $200,000 condo in Oakland Park. Twin brother Harley has become co-owner of the clinics that Shapiro used to help run. Harley is neither a chiropractor nor a lawyer. Schulman says he helps with "promotion" of the company.