Chapter 6: The Doctor Is In
The La Vida Aureo Community Assist Team gathered for their weekly meeting with more excitement and anticipation than usual. Each team member had been busy during the previous week and they were all eager to share their progress. They were not surprised to find a large tray of pastries on a table at the rear of the conference room.
Mikaylah Willis began by telling the Team that her exploratory discussions with Walgreen’s and CVS regarding prescription medications had gone very well. “Although neither company came right out and said it in so many words, it is apparent to me that they are moving, albeit cautiously, to fill the growing gap for primary care. They are willing to talk with us further as we develop a more detailed description of exactly how we could partner. I am pleased with their cooperation.”
Arnetta Valencia was next and could hardly contain her enthusiasm. “I spoke at length with more members of the Staff about home safety. I believe our initial conversations a few weeks ago have made it through the entire Sopapilla Network. Nearly all of the Staff want to be part of a test program and are more than willing to try different things in their homes and those of their parents. I see it as a large-scale workshop from which we will gain lots of valuable information. One of the women also mentioned that she had heard of a local volunteer organization that would make minor repairs and modifications for needy families. I plan to check that out early next week. Oh, I almost forgot. I have a meeting with the local Meals on Wheels chapter later this month.”
Mila Espalin was fidgeting in her chair. “I keep hearing stories about these so-called insurance agencies getting people to sign up for the Affordable Care Act. Was anyone able to find out whether this is legitimate or not?
“Yes, Mila, we have learned quite a bit since our last meeting,” replied Beth Ford. Without belaboring the ugly details, it is certain that the vast majority of these are phony. I think the prudent course of action is to advise anyone who asks, that ALL of these are probably suspicious, if not completely bogus and should be avoided!”
Minot Atkinson spoke up. “What Beth says is absolutely true. We should assume that this is not a legitimate activity. I’m still trying to understand what’s behind this. I simply have not been able to figure out why this information is being collected and then not used. I know that something else is going on and I am determined to find out!”
“I’m really glad to hear that,” said Mila. “It looks like my friends at the Department of Health have finally addressed this problem. It is so frustrating to know that it takes them so long to do anything. Gotta love the bureaucracy! Anyway, the State has finally begun establishing the systems to sign people up for insurance under the Act. There will be offices throughout the State and they promised that their website will be operational by the end of the week. So, people should be able to enroll, either on-line or by going into one of these offices.”
“Are they aware of these other operations,” asked Beth?
“I don’t think so. I probed a bit, but they seem so tied up in their own activity, I doubt they’ve had time to look up. They have been under a lot of pressure for taking so long to get operational. But, at least they’re finally getting involved.”
“What do you think will happen to these bogus insurance operations,” asked Mikaylah.
Matthew Dudley had been sitting quietly in the back of the room listening intently to the conversation. “If the State Department of Health is unaware of their existence, it may take some time to discover them. I only hope someone files a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. That might get something started. In the meantime, I agree with the Team; we must caution everyone we can to avoid these charlatans. I don’t think it’s in our best interest to pursue this; we have much more important things to focus on, as is evident from your reports this morning. Good job all around, Team.”
“I have no intention of letting this drop,” Minot though to herself. “Emily hinted that there was something much larger involved and I know she’ll get back to me with more information. But, the waiting is killing me!”
Minot tried to stay busy, but the hours and days just seemed to drag on. She had decided to go for an extra-long run and push herself to exhaustion. Maybe that would clear her mind. Just as she was heading out the door of her apartment, her phone buzzed with a text message: “Dinner? Your choice. My treat. Em.”
Although Minot Atkinson was born in North Dakota, she had readily adapted to New Mexico and particularly the food. She sent a text back: “Los Cuates on Lomas. Tonight at 7. M.”
Minot was so eager to learn what Emily Chang had to report she nearly got a speeding tickect as she headed west on Lomas Boulevard. Fortunately, the cop chose to stop the idiot who had cut her off as she sped through a yellow-red light. Emily was already seated at a booth in the back of the restaurant. No sooner had Minot sat down than a waited appeared with the largest margarita she had ever seen.
“When I said, My Treat, I assumed you’d pick some fancy place in Santa Fe. But, since you chose Los Cuates, also one of my favorites, I opted to treat you to the most expensive Tequila in the house. Drink up, my dear Minot.”
“OK. Thanks. But, why is this your treat? I should be the one treating you for helping me out. I assume we’re both talking about that little health insurance issue?”
“Yes. But, it’s my treat because you provided me the opportunity of a lifetime. I actually got to watch The Doctor work. I spent several nights at his place, totally in awe of what I witnessed. His reputation doesn’t begin to describe his skills.”
“OK, OK, so what did he find out?”
“That’s the other reason for my generosity this evening; I can’t tell you. I told you last time that I thought you had stumbled onto something important. Boy, was that an understatement! You were correct to assume that the key was the information and that the facts didn’t point to the usual purpose of identity theft. You told me that some of the families didn’t even have a bank account or credit card. That pointed me in a different direction, but it was The Doctor who uncovered the truth. That’s really all I can tell you. He took a huge risk by even letting me see his operation, but I’ve helped him out in the past with some sensitive issues. “
“Now what? I’m just supposed to forget about all this?”
“Not at all, my Dear. Knowing you, I’m sure by now you’ve convinced the Team that these local operations are phony and that people should avoid them like the plague. That’s really all you can do. I’m not sure how this will eventually play out, but I can assure you that a very bright light is about to shine. I suggest you watch the TV news and read the Journal. You will be pleased with things. But, remember, you and I never talked about this; you’ve never heard of anyone called The Doctor; you know nothing! Now, let’s have a couple more of these very tasty margaritas; we have cause to celebrate.”
Lieutenant Francisco “Frank” Garcia was at his desk going through the large stack of files in front of him. This was the part of being a policeman that he liked least. In fact, he wished that this aspect of his job would just go away, or that someone else could do it for him. The Mayor and Police Commissioner has approached him several times in recent months and encouraged him to apply for the Captain’s rank. He was painfully aware that the City was looking for some new blood in senior positions of the Department because of all the recent problems and the Department of Justice investigation. They had tried to convince Frank that he was an ideal candidate, not only because of his record of success as a detective, but also his positive image in the community. Frank’s police record was spotless and he remained active in youth programs and other forms of community service. But, Frank realized that a promotion would essentially remove him from the detective work he loved and burden him with even more paperwork. No, he thought, I’m happy right here!
Frank’s thoughts were interrupted by Sergeant Hogan, the Duty Officer, who entered the office carrying a dozen large stem red roses. “Some kid just showed up at the front desk and said these were for you. Are you keeping secrets from the guys in the Squad Room, Lieutenant?”
“There must be some mistake”, replied Garcia. These can’t possibly be for me.”
“Well, the card says Lt. Garcia and you’re the only one of those around here.”
With a huge smile on his face, Sgt. Hogan handed the roses to Garcia and turned to leave. “You know, Frank, if you ever want to talk about it, I’m sure there’s someone in Personnel who would be more than happy to listen to your version of the story.”
Garcia was still at a loss to explain this gift, but decided to open the card. There was a hand-written, actually hand-printed, note on the card which simply said: Happy Hunting, followed by the initials MD. Enclosed in the envelope was a small flash drive. This made Garcia even more suspicious about the origin of the flowers and the purpose of the flash drive. He sat back in his chair and tried to think about the initials, MD. His first thought was “Why would Matthew Dudley send me flowers and why would he use a flash drive to communicate with me?” Garcia took what he decided was the obvious next step and inserted the flash drive into his computer.
A long list of files appeared, but the file names were just a series of letters and numbers, probably some sort of code. He noticed a small file named READ ME and realized that whoever had sent the drive wanted him to start there. When the document opened, Garcia saw a picture of a pyramid consisting of several layers stacked on top of one another. There was text within each layer and much of it was too small to read because there was so much of it. Garcia enlarged his screen and began to read the text in the bottom-most layer; each was the name of a person or organization. When he clicked on a name, it opened another file on the drive. Now he was looking at detailed financial and business records. He clicked on another name in a higher level/layer of the picture. Again, it opened a separate file with pages of products, shipments, receipts, etc. He assumed that all of these names were somehow related or inter-connected, but it wasn’t immediately apparent to him.
As Garcia sat back in his chair to reflect on what he had been looking at, it was obvious that it had taken a considerable amount of digging to amass the amount and detail of the information contained on the flash drive. It was also obvious that the information was the type that someone would not want to see disclosed. Garcia slapped his forehead. “It’s a pyramid, dummy! Whoever dug up all of this information is telling me that there is a huge pyramid scheme operating in the City in the healthcare business. I don’t know where this information came from, but it looks like someone hacked into a bunch of personal computers to create this picture.”
Garcia quickly realized that the MD signature could not possibly be Matthew Dudley. Although Dudley had led him to the computer link that broke the case of Martha Arthur’s murder (Case VII, April 2015), Garcia knew that this was much more sophisticated and probably criminal in nature. Marco! It must be Marco Darco, the only person Garcia knew with the technical computer skills to have hacked into personal computers and dig out, organize and analyze this kind of confidential information. Marco was known only to a few trusted people for his considerable expertise and then only as “MD” or simply The Doctor.
Lt. Garcia knew he could not use any of the information on the flash drive because it was all obtained illegally. Nonetheless, this was irrefutable evidence of a major fraud scheme operating in the City. He would have to talk to Marco and see if there was another way to proceed. But, he also knew that Marco lived so far underground and off the grid that it was like trying to speak to The Shadow. If only Garcia had some sort of Bat Signal as a way to get a message to Marco that he wanted to talk. He had an idea.
Garcia drove east on Lomas Boulevard and stopped at a small, rather nondescript coffee shop called, appropriately enough, Humble Coffee. Fortunately, he was not driving an official police vehicle as he pulled into one of few and very obvious parking spaces in front. He quietly walked up to the counter, ordered a small coffee to go, paid and handed the barista his card. “I’d like to see The Doctor when he’s available.” Garcia turned and returned to his car and drove away knowing he would just have to wait.
A few days later, Garcia was returning from a crime scene near the UNM campus when he received a text message on his phone. The message simply said Coffee? and had been sent from a restricted number. Garcia turned around and drove to Humble Coffee where he saw Marco sitting at one of the tables outside. Garcia parked his official police car on a side street a few blocks away and walked back and sat down at the table. “Thanks for the flowers. They really made my day.”
“Well, it’s nice that you have admirers, Lieutenant, but I’m really not much of flower kinda guy. What brings you to this neighborhood?”
“I’ve recently come into possession of some very interesting information concerning the health of the City and trying to figure out just how to proceed. I thought perhaps you could help me.”
“Gee, Lieutenant, I only know what I read in the papers, if you see what I mean.”
“Are you telling me that that you’ve also sent this information to the Journal?”
“Do you watch much TV, Lieutenant? Lately, I’ve started watch this MeTV channel with all of the old programs. I particularly enjoy Hogan’s Heroes.” Then, Marco sat back in his chair and folded his arms across his check and did his best Sgt. Schultz impression. “I know nothing”. With that, he got up and walked away.
Garcia tried to watch where he went, but Marco seemed to vanish almost as soon as he passed the edge of the building. Garcia knew that Marco had sent a copy of the information contained on the flash drive to The Albuquerque Journal and likely the Albuquerque Free Press. He would have to act fast and approach the District Attorney to obtain a series of search warrants. There were two problems. The first was that there was so much information and he had not had sufficient time to analyze it thoroughly. More importantly, the information had been obtained illegally and, therefore, Garcia couldn’t disclose it was in his possession. Maybe he could let the story break in the Press, which would give him the probable cause he needed to open his own investigation. Garcia wasn’t sure exactly how to proceed.