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Staffing firm owners deny charges

May 21 2010

An attorney for the owners of a Louisiana-based healthcare staffing firm said his clients deny all criminal charges against them, and said the matter may be related to pending civil court cases.

On Tuesday, the Louisiana Workforce Commission announced that Brett McElwee and Daniel Fuselier, owners of Ville Platte LA-based First Choice Medical Staffing Inc., were arrested on charges of insurance fraud and unlawful practices involving workers' compensation coverage.

Jacob Fusilier, an attorney for the staffing firm owners, said in a prepared statement the commission may be using the criminal case to gain an advantage in pending civil cases.

"My clients completely deny all of the charges against them," Fusilier wrote. "What the Louisiana Workforce Commission failed to mention, in its hastily prepared statement, is that this matter arises from several lawsuits pending between the parties in East Baton Rouge Parish.

"The issues in these lawsuits are related to my clients' business practice of placing independent, professional nurses to staff hospitals and nursing homes. No nurse provides services directly to First Choice Medical Staffing of Louisiana, Inc. Nor does the company see patients at its location. My clients' classification of nurses as independent contractors is based on expert advice from qualified certified public accountants and tax attorneys with years of experience in these matters. 

"The Louisiana Workforce Commission lost a lawsuit addressing the same issues recently, Contract Management Services Inc. of Texas v. State of Louisiana, Department of Labor, Office of Employment Security,1998-2010 (La. App. 1  Cir. 11/5/99), 754 So.2d 194. The Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that the commission was wrong in its attempt to classify professional nurses as employees and agreed with the staffing company that the nurses were independent contractors. My clients acted in accordance with the law regarding independent contractors.

"Furthermore, the initial audit conducted by the Louisiana Workforce Commission was conducted by a field operative who admitted, under oath, never having interviewed a single nurse, hospital or nursing administrator or officer of the company.

"Despite testimony from witnesses supporting my clients' arguments and version of the facts, the commission insisted that my clients owed civil penalties and my clients then undertook their legal right to an appeal. 

"It is my feeling that the Louisiana Workforce Commission is pursuing these criminal charges to gain an unfair advantage in the companion civil cases. My clients look forward to being exonerated through the court system."

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