Ultrasound machine salesman pleads guilty to theft

Plea follows indictment of Patrick Jackson

November 8, 2012 (published)
By Edie Lau

Patrick Jackson, resident agent of a Maryland-based diagnostic ultrasound equipment company called Amerisource Medical LLC, has pleaded guilty to felony theft and is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 18 in Howard County Circuit Court, according to state law enforcement authorities.

Jackson was indicted on March 28 by the Howard County Grand Jury on 14 counts of theft. On Sept. 11, Jackson accepted a plea agreement by which he pleaded guilty to count two — "theft scheme between $10,000 to under $100,000" — and agreed to pay restitution, according to T. Wayne Kirwan, a spokesman for the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office.

The thefts affected veterinarians, physicians and other medical professionals around the country and abroad who paid Amerisource for ultrasound devices but received nothing or were given defective devices or incomplete orders.

Andrew Saller, an attorney for Jackson, declined to say why Jackson decided not to proceed to trial. “The guilty plea may still be withdrawn, and the case is not resolved yet,” Saller said.

Saller declined also to provide Jackson’s perspective on what happened, and said he did not know what Jackson is doing for a living now. Jackson did not respond to a message from the VIN News Service left at a telephone number listed as his home number in Elkridge, Md.

Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation records show that Amerisource Medical registered as a corporation on April 16, 2009, and that Jackson became its resident agent on June 7, 2011. A resident agent, also known as a registered agent, is a company's designee for receiving legal or official communications. State records list Amerisource as an active corporation but not in good standing. The state classifies businesses as "not in good standing" when they fail to file an Annual Report/Personal Property Return or owe a late filing penalty.

The Howard County police investigation found 13 individuals or organizations that lost money to Jackson, according to a statement of facts provided to the VIN News Service by Assistant State’s Attorney Brian Furlong. The thefts occurred between December 2009 and February 2011 and added up to more than $105,000, the summary shows.

In November 2010, the VIN News Service reported on one of the earliest thefts. The victim was Dr. Jeffrey LaHuis, a U.S. Army Reserve captain who had returned that fall from a military assignment in Qatar and was in the market for a diagnostic ultrasound machine for the veterinary practice he had just purchased in Sault Saint Marie, Mich.

LaHuis paid $5,000 by check upfront for a refurbished machine. After a prolonged delay, LaHuis said, he received a defective unit. Jackson sent him a replacement probe and two replacement circuit boards but the machine still did not work properly, and Jackson stopped returning his calls, LaHuis said. The veterinarian ended up buying another machine from a different source.

Other medical professionals who read of LaHuis’s experience contacted the VIN News Service with their own stories. One was Dr. Melissa Haddad, a veterinarian in Honduras who said that after finding Amerisource online, she paid $2,900 plus $200 for shipping and insurance for a portable device that never arrived.

By August 2011, detectives in Waukesha, Wisc., and Howard County, Md., were investigating Amerisource and Jackson. The VIN News Service, meanwhile, determined that two mailing addresses in Maryland used by Amerisource were those of UPS Stores. Contacted by the news service at the time, Jackson stated that he no longer worked for Amerisource and that he had left the company many months earlier.

The Maryland state prosecutor’s statement of facts gives this account of the investigation’s findings:

The Howard County Police Economic Crimes Unit began in May 2011 to receive complaints about Amerisource Medical LLC, which has a Howard County mailing address. The investigator, Det. Christine Adams, found victims among medical professionals in 10 states and the country of Honduras. The victims said they had dealt with Jackson or someone named John Simon. Adams determined that Simon was an alias Jackson used.

The victims’ losses ranged from a $1,000 down payment to a $35,000 payment in full.

Many had paid by check, an act they came to regret. But Dr. Darren Loula, a veterinarian with a mobile practice in Missouri who sent the company a check for $1,000, said there was nothing about his early dealings with Jackson that suggested the business was shady.

“I had called and talked with him on the phone multiple times and he had faxed over an agreement and everything,” Loula said in an interview. “It all seemed legit.”

Loula said buying an ultrasound machine from an online vendor is a standard practice these days. “I don’t know of anywhere locally where I can just go in and buy something (like that),” he said. “I did research online and made some phone calls."

He continued: “In looking back, I really don’t know that there was much to tip me off that this guy was cheating people. I can totally understand wanting a deposit before you send out a $3,000 piece of equipment. Like I said, I had signed an agreement. I had a guarantee in writing, as well, from his company that said if I wasn’t satisfied with the machine, I could return it within one week and get everything refunded.”

But Loula never received a machine to try out. Loula said he communicated with Jackson by telephone and email several times but eventually, Jackson stopped responding.

Loula then complained to the Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland. When the bureau was unable to broker a resolution, Loula decided to let it go. “At that point, I was like, OK, too much time, too much frustration, and I’m probably never going to get that money back,” he said.

(The BBB currently gives Amerisource Medical an F rating based in part upon unanswered and unresolved complaints.)

Now that Jackson faces criminal charges, Loula is hopeful that the ultrasound vendor will be brought to justice — and that he might even get his money back, although he’s not counting on it. “I don’t know how things will play out and if I’ll ever see any of that money,” he said. “It would be a pleasant surprise.”

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