The Quack, His Buddy the Sheriff and the Crooked Arm of the Law.
As I mentioned in Part 1, Anne Mitchell and Vicki Galle held important positions in hospital administration at the Winkler County Memorial Hospital. Mitchell was responsible for the credentialing of all physicians, including completion of medicare and medicaid applications, and review of all patients transfers and patient quality issues including billing audits. She received and reviewed annual reports from all hospital departments to ensure compliance with regulatory agencies. Galle made sure patient’s met criteria for admission and followed them during their stay reviewing their charts to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations. She was also in charge of monitoring and improving patient safety and quality of care and coordinating medical staff meetings. It was during the responsible and routine completion of their duties that the two became concerned over the practice of Dr. Arafiles.
Dr. Arafiles was hired by the hospital in April of 2008. At the time he was hired he was subject to a 2007 order from the Texas Medical Board restricting him from supervising or delegating prescriptive authority to physicians assistants or nurse practitioners, or supervising surgical assistants for three years. Over the next twelve months two physicians and other staff members voiced concerns over the performance of Dr. Arafiles and his treatment of patients. These concerns were presented to the hospital’s Board of Control which took no action. After they had spoken with representatives of the Texas Medical Board Mitchell and Galle submitted an anonymous complaint to the board identifying the concerns they had on April 7, 2009. Arafiles was notified by the board that a complaint had been received and an investigation was under way on April 15. On April 27 Dr. Arafiles gave a copy of the letter to his patient, friend and business partner in the sale of herbal supplements, Winkler County Sheriff Robert L. Roberts. The latter from the board contained the names of 10 patients whose care was being investigated. Sheriff Roberts went to work quickly, contacting those patients as he launched an investigation to find out who made the anonymous complaint.
One can only imagine the shock of being interviewed by the local sheriff about the care you received from your physician. It is hard to imagine what exactly the sheriff would have told the patients to explain why he was questioning them about their private medical information. One wonders what he may have said to them about the complaint and his pal the doctor. What is certain is that the only reason any investigation took place by his office into a complaint filed with the medical board, is the personal and business relationship the sheriff had with the doctor in question. The sheriff for his part pulled out all the stops. He wrote to the medical board on May 8 telling them that he was conducting a criminal investigation in “the case of the complaint” filed against Dr. Arafiles and asking the board to provide him with a copy of the complaint to assist the investigation. The sheriff neglected to inform the board just who he was investigating and the board understandably thought that the subject of the criminal investigation was Dr. Arafiles. After all it is likely the board has never previously been contacted by law enforcement within days of an anonymous complaint because an investigation into the complaint authors has been initiated. It is too absurd to contemplate.
So the medical board, as they are required to do, cooperates with law enforcement in the investigation of, they assume, a physician licensed in Texas and they send the sheriff a copy of the anonymous complaint on May 11. Just to be safe they remind him that such complaints may only be released by the board if law enforcement is investigating the subject in the complaint, a physician licensed in Texas, and that the complaint must remain confidential. Its release is prohibited except to further the investigation being done by the board. They end by asking the sheriff to inform them immediately if he is not investigating a license holder under the Texas Medical Board. The sheriff keeps the copy of the complaint and takes action based on its contents and never replies to the board in clear violation of state law.
Since the anonymous complaint reveals that the reporting nurse is a female in her 50′s employed by the hospital since the 1980′s, the sheriff is immediately able to narrow his search for the author(s). The sheriff contacted county attorney Scott M. Tidwell and informed him of the investigation he was conducting and on May 19 they met and decide to issue search warrants for the computers used by Mitchell and Galle. The sheriff had received the copy of the complaint from the board only the previous day, May 18, so he was able to put things together quickly by making a few inquiries at the hospital about 50-ish year old nurses and wasted no time moving to search their computers. The search included a computer at the Winkler County Community Center where Mitchell had a second job as emergency management coordinator. It was on this computer that a copy of the complaint to the board was found. The sheriff met with Mitchell and Galle on May 27 and both informed him they had authored and sent an anonymous complaint to the board, oblivious to the intention of the sheriff to ultimately arrest them and charge them with felonies.
In Part 1: The Beginning
In Part 2: The Quack, his buddy the Sheriff and the Crooked Arm of the Law
In Part 3: Kangaroo Grand Jury, Indictment, You’re Fired.
In Part 4: Explanation of the Charges, Prosecution Team Shenanigans Exposed
Tags: Winkler County
, vicki galle
, mike fostel