A DOCTOR TAKES ACTION WHEN HE BELIEVES A FELLOW SURGEON IS PERFORMING UNNECESSARY HEART SURGERIES FOR INSURANCE PAYOUTS, AND MEET THE WOMAN WHO MAY HAVE BEEN THE FIRST TO BLOW THE WHISTLE ON WELLS FARGO BEFORE THE COMPANY IMPLODED, ON "WHISTLEBLOWER," FRIDAY, AUGUST 3
"The Case Against the Cardiologists and the Case Against Wells Fargo" - Dr. Michael Jones, a successful cardiologist in Lexington, Ky., noticed a troubling pattern in the patients showing up in his office. They were all from the same part of rural Kentucky, and each of them seemed to have had expensive heart procedures he believed they didn't need. Host Alex Ferrer investigates the case against the cardiologists and another against Wells Fargo in WHISTLEBLOWER, Friday, August 3 (9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Ruth Wells' husband, Kevin, was one of those patients. Another doctor had installed a pacemaker, and he says his heart felt like it was beating out of his chest. Jones examined Wells and says the pacemaker was unwarranted.
"Kevin could have died," Ruth Wells says. "He could have died on the table. And to think it was for something he didn't need."
Kevin Wells was one of several that Jones noticed at his practice starting in 2010. Many of them came from the same group of cardiologists and were often connected with Saint Joseph London Hospital. He started to think something was wrong - terribly wrong. The procedures were not only invasive but came with medical bills that could potentially bankrupt some of the patients. Jones decided to take action.
"I saw many patients who underwent unnecessary heart procedures," Jones says. "I was concerned they were being done for financial gain."
The turning point for Jones was meeting a great grandmother, Delthimar Renfro, who was previously treated by a doctor connected with Saint Joseph London Hospital. She told Jones that she was afraid of losing everything and she was concerned she couldn't pay him. Jones learned that she had two stents put in and she had had a heart attack during the surgery.
"I couldn't hardly breathe, I couldn't hardly stand-up," Renfro says.
Believing that the procedures were being done to defraud money from Medicare and Medicaid, Jones and two colleagues filed a federal whistleblower lawsuit. But would the Department of Justice join their case? The odds were not in their favor.
When the Wells Fargo banking scandal erupted nationally in 2016, amid allegations that bank employees were encouraged to open credit card accounts for customers without their knowledge, leading to even larger, systemic fraud, Jessie Guitron was at home saying "I told you so."
The scandal rocked the nation, cost the Wells Fargo CEO his job, as well as more than 5,000 other company employees. For Guitron, it was too little, too late. She had been ringing the alarm over what she saw as fraud for years.
Guitron began working for Wells Fargo in 2008. Soon after, though, she realized they all faced a company-mandated quota to sign up new accounts. Some of her colleagues, she noticed, were promising to open free accounts for clients but signing them up for premium accounts which came with hefty fees. Customers were overdrawn, and their credit ruined.
"I kept complaining and complaining, and nothing ever gets done," Guitron says. "I was doing what my conscience was telling me to do. It's fraud. That's what it is."
Trying to stop that fraud put a target on her back. She was fired in 2010, she says, without warning. Unable to find a new job and believing she had been blackballed, Guitron filed a lawsuit claiming Wells Fargo fired her for speaking out against the fraudulent practices she witnessed.
"I felt like Erin Brockovich," she says. "I was very confident."
But then, two years later, her claims against Wells Fargo were dismissed.
"I was deflated," Guitron says. "I was like, 'Okay, I'm done.'"
In 2016 the world around her changed when the government accused Wells Fargo Bank of opening numerous accounts without their clients' consent. Would Guitron get to see the company pay for the crimes she claims she saw years earlier?
WHISTLEBLOWER is a series that takes a thrilling look into the real-life David vs. Goliath stories of heroic people who put everything on the line in order to expose illegal and often dangerous wrongdoing when major corporations rip off U.S. taxpayers. Each edition introduces cases in which ordinary people step up to do the extraordinary by risking their careers, their families and even their lives to ensure others are not harmed or killed by unchecked, unethical corporate greed.
Emmy Award winner Susan Zirinsky (48 HOURS, 48 HOURS: NCIS)
serves as senior executive producer. Alex Ferrer and Ted Eccles serve as executive producers. WHISTLEBLOWER is produced by CBS News for CBS Television Studios.