PHILADELPHIA (CN) – The American Board of Surgery claims a former doctor is trading off its name by setting up bogus “medical organizations … to sell medical certifications in exchange for monetary payments”. The Board claims that after three or more states revoked Keith Lasko’s medical license in the 1990s, Lasko set up “illegitimate medical organizations,” which led Illinois to sue him and shut him down, but he continued doing it in other states.
The American Board of Surgery sued Lasko and his companies, the American Academy of Surgery and American Council of General Surgeons, and the American Council of Surgical Specialists, in Federal Court, for trademark violations and unfair and deceptive trade.
The Board claims Lasko set up both companies to trick physicians into believing they are affiliated with the American Board of Surgery, a legitimate group that “was founded in 1937 for the purpose of certifying surgeons who met a defined standard of education, training and knowledge.”
The ABS says Lasko has a long history of creating “medical organizations” to sell bogus certifications, and that he got into the business after losing his medical license.
The California Medical Board “brought disciplinary proceedings against Lasko” in 1991, for “repeated acts of clearly excessive use of diagnostic procedures involving several patients, many of whom were elderly and in nursing homes,” according to the complaint. It claims the California Medical Board also accused Lasko of “acts of dishonesty or corruption” including billing for procedures that were not performed.
“The California Board of Medicine found that Lasko had committed these acts of misconduct and revoked his medical license,” the complaint states. It adds that New York revoked his medical license in 1994, Illinois suspended his license, and Mississippi let him surrender his license before it held a revocation hearing.
The complaint continues: “After losing his privilege to practice medicine in several states, Lasko created several entities – including American Board of Hospital Physicians, American College of Ethical Physicians – that sound as though they were legitimated medical organizations when they were not.”
The ABS says the Illinois attorney general sued him for consumer fraud and deceptive business practices in 2004, and obtained a final judgment and consent decree enjoining Lasko “from selling or advertising the certificates to physicians, from representing that the entities he created were affiliated with medical organizations, from making any false or misleading statements in or from the State of Illinois, and from using a website for any unlawful activity.”
But, undissuaded, “After the State of Illinois shut down his operation, Lasko continued to create new entities and sell illegitimate medical certificates to physicians for money,” the Board says.
In January 2009, he created the American Board of Geriatric Medicine and Institute of Geriatric Specialists, and in April 2009, the Connecticut attorney general announced he was investigating Lasko “after receiving over one hundred complaints against him for selling illegitimate medical certificates from those organizations for money,” according to the complaint.
In late 2009, “Lasko created yet another illegitimate medical organization – the American Board of General Surgery (‘ABGS’) – under Nevada law,” the complaint states.
The ABS notes a “substantial similarity” between that name and its own, and adds that the website Lasko created for it – www.boardofsurgery.org – “refers directly to the name of ABS.” The Board calls that “inappropriate and misleading to the medical community,” and it claims that “this newly created Nevada ‘board’ is engaging in further misleading commercial conduct. Although ABGS is not a legitimate medical organization, it offers to sell medical certifications in exchange for monetary payments regardless of a physician’s qualifications.”
The complaint adds: “ACGS, for example, advises physicians that they can purchase the right to list certain medical certification-based letters after their names if they pay annual fees to the ACGS.”
In a puzzling sidelight, the complaint states that Lasko lives on Vivid Violet Avenue in Las Vegas, Nev., but “contends that his address is the same as the First Church of the Epiphany” in Pahrump.
ABS seeks an injunction and treble damages and punitive damages for trademark violations, unfair competition, and tortious interference.
ABS is represented by Gabriel Bevilacqua with Saul Ewing of Philadelphia.