Let’s talk about it: Four patients in the same medical practice

Between 1996 and 1997 four people, all of them in roughly the same age group, disappeared from the Los Angeles area: Robert Vincent Black, 64, on March 12, 1996; Patricia Laxer, 63, on August 11, 1997; Goldie A. Swanger, 75, on August 29, 1997; Richard Dean Davison, 70, on October 29, 1997. Mysteriously, not only were all four of these individuals patients of the same doctor (I never found out anything about him), but they all supposedly disappeared while going either to or from appointments with him.

The first answer that strikes me is “serial killer connected with the medical practice,” but what little I knew about the cases didn’t seem to indicate foul play; in fact the police not only suggested they were alive, but that each “may be a patient in a hospital or nursing home.”

In 2004, I found out Goldie Swanger’s case had been resolved, but I did not learn her fate at the time, whether she’d been found dead, or what. I blogged about this in 2011, and in 2014 a commenter, claiming to be Swanger’s biological son, left a comment on that blog entry. I quote from it below. He, his daughter Andria and another of Goldie’s granddaughters traveled to Los Angeles in 2000 or 2001 and

did a little investigation, got medical records from a doctor that Goldie was seeing before she became missing. That doctor told me that she saw him about once a month and then just never showed up and that he wondered what became of her! We found out where she was last at, alive, during her being “missing”. I believe it was a nursing home or something to that effect. I believe the government department that we today call the SRS had something to hide as they threw roadblocks in our search of Goldie.

I’m not sure what he means by SRS. Google turned up “special retirement supplement” which doesn’t make a lot of sense, and “supported residential services” which does, but supported residential services isn’t an American government department, only a service provided by the state government in Victoria, AUSTRALIA. My guess is he meant something similar to supported residential services that the U.S. or California government provide, but got the acronym wrong. Anyway, on with what Goldie Swanger’s son said:

It seems strange that as soon as my wife and I determined that her last name was Swanger and informed the SRS we knew her last name, the “SRS” had one hissy fit, and we determined that Goldie was still alive! But when we got to California she had passed away! Now that is strange! We found out where she lived previous to this facility and saw the place (apartment) and met and talked with a person who knew Goldie (an apartment neighbor). The administrator of the facility she was last at clammed up when we started to question the circumstance as to why Goldie was at this facility. Andria talked with a person who worked in that facility and knew Goldie as a patient(?). Andria has the info on this place. Goldie’s biological family believe that what we discovered may possibly be something to do with medicare fraud. The other missing persons in that area may just have been admitted to that same facility. We don’t know. We couldn’t find out.

The plot thickens indeed. This is most peculiar. I’d love to learn more about this case — some questions that come to mind are who was this doctor, what was his speciality, is he still practicing, what the MPs were seeing him for, and what were their general states of physical/mental health at the time they went missing? The facility administrator may have “clammed up” because there was something sketchy going on, but it could have been for confidentiality reasons (HIPAA).

I suppose it’s possible the other three could be still alive, particularly if they’re in a reasonably good care facility. (Key words being “possible” and “reasonably good”.) By now Black would be 85, Davis would be 89, and Laxer would be 83. But I wonder if anyone is even looking for them by now. If I was looking to imprison some people in a care facility against their will for the purposes of committing medical assistance fraud, I’d be targeting people with no living relatives, or at least no close relatives, and few ties to their community — people who would be easily missed.

So what happened to these people? Let’s talk about it.

13 thoughts on “Let’s talk about it: Four patients in the same medical practice

  1. Janet Rizzo February 16, 2017 / 7:48 am

    It seems strange that information on the doctor in question can not be found…like; where he studied,went to school,got his degree,etc? I mean….really?

  2. marsyao February 16, 2017 / 8:41 am

    Two of the patients were in their early 60’s, usually people in their early 60’s were still in their sound mind and could physically take care themselves, too early to be admitted into a nursing home, Could they be in poor health and did not have a good relationship with their family ? Could that doctor be a middle man of those who suspect run Medicare fraud and somehow persuade them to be admitted into these nursing home?

    • L. February 16, 2017 / 1:27 pm

      That would be my guess, based both on my volunteering and working in several nursing homes. Primary physician admits an elderly person to care in order to facilitate Medicare or Medicaid fraud. There was a company in Florida, Esformes Network, putting people into care in order to provide them unnecessary medical treatments that were then billed to either Medicare or Medicaid. I knew one RN/Administrator of a nursing home who was guilty of Medicare fraud via billing, but never was prosecuted and was pressured to resign by the company who owned several facilities. Elder care is big business these days; the abuse in these facilities fortunately gets more attention than it did decades ago but medical fraud still tends to get swept under the rug.

  3. whereaboutsstillunknown February 16, 2017 / 10:40 am

    My guess would be that they died of natural causes and someone kept them alive on paper to claim their social security benefits or something.

    Walter Dunson’s case was something like that except that his son was most likely the one collecting on his deceased fathers benefits.

    In this case I don’t think it was the families, but more likely someone in the medical facility.

    Was it ever confirmed that Goldie was alive, or was her son just told that? I lean toward thinking she was already deceased and they only reported her death when her son started asking questions.

    • Meaghan February 16, 2017 / 10:45 am

      That’s a VERY good question. He said he talked to someone who knew her as a patient — was that a staff member, or a fellow patient? And when did this person last see her alive?

      The “died but were kept alive on paper” theory makes a lot of sense but I’d like some evidence to support it — like, were these people actually in poor health? As Marsyao noted, two of them were relatively young.

    • Lauren Q February 19, 2017 / 10:18 am

      That is so weird, I came across this comment while literally in the midst of watching the his Disappeared episode.

  4. M. February 16, 2017 / 8:01 pm

    Interesting. The circumstances remind me of the case of Richard Boggs, a California physician who was sentenced to life in prison for his role in an elaborate insurance fraud scam.

    In 1988, Boggs and an acquaintance named Melvin Hanson devised a plot to collect a $1.5 million life insurance policy Hanson had taken out on himself. Boggs lured a man named Ellis Greene into his office, subdued him with a stun gun, and killed him. He then falsified records so that it would appear the dead man was actually Melvin Hanson.

    It’s a fascinating story.

  5. terromangerro February 16, 2017 / 8:16 pm

    If it’s some type of Medicare fraud, it might not be the doctor himself but whomever handles his books/does his accounting. Many doctors don’t directly handle their own business accounting; they don’t have time to. An employee of his practice, or an outside accountant, could have had access to a lot of this. Having this many patients unaccounted for within one practice is seemingly more than coincidence, but for them to actually have vanished, even if they did die of natural causes…to cover the paper trail…I’d think that would involve more than just an accountant. Wouldn’t a coroner have to be involved as well? I guess an outside possibility is that someone really had it in for this doctor AND had access to the accounts, and killed the patients AND committed the fraud. Or maybe just killed them and there was no fraud. But that seems so unlikely. One last thought, it might be interesting to know if there are similar cases (of “missing” people) within the jurisdiction of the coroner or ME in that town/county etc. that don’t have anything to do with the Doctor. If it’s more than the average for that size area, it might be just poor record keeping or poor performance by the person responsible for issuing death certificates and such.

    • whereaboutsstillunknown February 16, 2017 / 11:00 pm

      From what I understand, a coroner is involved if the deceased was not under a doctors care. If there is a doctor, he/she can sign the death certificate and a coroner isn’t needed.

      So if this was the case, I would guess the doctor was somehow involved. Unless the doctors signature was forged by an employee, maybe.

  6. Nicole March 28, 2017 / 3:49 pm

    I researched this case myself and I find myself keep looking for updates and glad I came across yours. I wish I knew what building they visited, since I’m in the LA area and can go see for myself. I did realize that in those free background check that there was one where a Goldie Swanger was alive in even listed an address.

    My conclusion is definitely with some sort of medical fraud but I just can’t explain how its all connected and how the LAPD hasn’t been able to do anything about it. I also can’t believe how it doesn’t feel like their families are even looking for them, besides Goldie.

  7. Trepto January 18, 2018 / 9:28 pm

    It sounds like they may have been caught up in the same sort if thing as the couple in this article: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/10/09/how-the-elderly-lose-their-rights

    There are apparently people who, with the help of a few medical practitioners willing to fudge some paperwork, make a living by having elderly people they don’t know declared incompetent and assuming guardianship of their assets. They move them out of their house as soon as possible so that anyone with a real claim to their estate can’t find them and put them in a nursing home. These people are scum.

  8. Sasha Diener November 13, 2019 / 10:38 am

    S.R.S. stands for Social & Rehabilitation Services and was (at least in 90’s) what we now call DCF.

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