AG sues hearing-aid seller
Lori Firestone is accused of defrauding elderly clients, among other crimes.
Daily Record/Sunday News
At bottom: · THE CLAIMS AGAINST LORI FIRESTONE · TO REPORT ELDER ABUSE
Sep 1, 2006 —
The Pennsylvania Attorney General is accusing a local hearing aid seller of practicing medicine without a license, misleading clients and failing to refer clients for needed medical treatment.
The lawsuit against Lori A. Firestone, the owner of Lori Firestone's Hearing Aid Service, was filed Thursday in the York County Common Pleas Court.
Firestone runs an office at 1544 Carlisle Road in West Manchester Township and one at 8 Baltimore St. in Hanover.
A yearlong investigation led to 19 counts accusing Firestone of defrauding clients with misleading claims about the products she sold, denying refunds, marking up prices by 300 percent to 900 percent, and more, Corbett said Thursday.
The charges also include altering documents after receiving a subpoena.
"There's only one reason for that," Corbett said at the White Rose Senior Center on Broad Street in York during a news conference.
He wanted people age 60 and older to know of the situation, which was investigated by his agency's new Elder Abuse Unit.
At least one person whose only problem was excessive ear wax bought expensive hearing aids from Firestone, Corbett said.
Firestone's business remains open. Corbett said he is seeking an injunction to close it until all claims are resolved and restitution and fines paid.
Firestone later responded to the lawsuit, saying, "I am not concerned. God is in control, and God knows the truth."
Firestorm is a registered hearing aid fitter and seller through 2006, not a licensed doctor, Corbett said. Her products and services range from $2,500 to $9,000.
Some of her clients needed medical attention, not a hearing aid, he said.
"We discovered illegal medical diagnoses, altered documents and test results and hosts of promises that were never kept," Corbett said. "In the end, mostly older Pennsylvanians were defrauded, and in some cases dangerously misled about potential diseases ... associated with their hearing loss."
He spoke of a deaf 7-year-old boy. Corbett accused Firestone of diagnosing his condition as nerve deafness that surgery could not resolve. She allegedly told his parents only hearing aids would help him.
That amounted to practicing medicine without a license, Corbett said.
The boy saw a physician who operated to remove excess fluid in the child's ear and to insert tiny tubes. His adenoids were removed. His hearing returned to normal.
Corbett advised all people to see a licensed physician or their family physician before heading to a hearing aid seller.
Corbett said the lawsuit is based on two complaints, one filed by a man older than 60 and the other by a man in his 90s.
Some people have lodged their complaints with other agencies, such as the Better Business Bureau, said Deputy Attorney General Nicole L. Adams, who works in the Elder Abuse Unit. Most of those complaints will eventually be forwarded to her unit for investigation.
Corbett encouraged others who believe they might have been victims to call the Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-866-623-2137.
The lawsuit seeks nearly $10,000 in restitution to consumers who filed complaints with the attorney general's office, plus full refunds for others who might report harm by Firestone, Corbett said.
He also seeks reimbursement for the investigation, and $1,000 per violation and $3,000 for each violation involving a person 60 years or older.
More details, such as how Firestone used the money from her alleged scam, will be learned during the discovery stage of the civil case, Corbett said.
York Police Commissioner Mark Whitman, Detective Phil Roberts and Capt. David Arnold stood at the back of the room.
They came, Whitman said, because elder abuse is common.
"We handle the day-to-day stuff," he said. "The attorney general works on the longer term. This program is important."
THE CLAIMS AGAINST LORI FIRESTONE
· Failed to tell clients she was not licensed to practice medicine
· Failed to tell clients they should see licensed medical doctors for treatment of eight specific diseases of the ear
· Failed to mention or explain the consequences of waiving a medical examination
· Misrepresented the need for hearing aids
· Backdated purchase agreements, medical waivers and warranty disclosures
· Failed to provide consumers with a disclosure agreement before performing any services involving fitting, fees and delivery
· Failed to comply with the 30-day money back guarantee by denying refunds, ignoring requests for refunds during the allowable time and failing to make prompt refunds
· Failed to tell consumers of their right to cancel
· Sold clients used or reconditioned hearing aids without their knowledge, providing no written receipts or explanation of warranties
· Delivered different hearing aids than the brand consumers bought
· Used "bait and switch" sales tactics and made-up titles to infer special education, skill, accreditation or expertise
· Made false or misleading claims about offering hearing aid buyers "free batteries for life"
· Falsely claimed "very low prices" or discounts when the prices fluctuated or were set to reflect a 300 percent to 900 percent markup
· Falsely claimed to offer a "Worldwide No Questions Asked Warranty"
· Advertised services that, by law, can be provided only by a licensed physician
· Allowed trainees, without consumers' knowledge, to perform services that should be performed only by registered hearing aid fitters
· Altered hearing test results to convince consumers they needed hearing aids
· Practiced medicine without a license by diagnosing a 7-year-old boy with inoperative nerve deafness that could be relieved only with hearing aids
Source: Pennsylvania Attorney General's office
TO REPORT ELDER ABUSE
Call the Elder Abuse Hotline at 877-888-4877 or visit http://www.attorneygeneral.gov. Click on Complaint Forms in top right box. Select Consumer Complaint form in far left list. Click on either File a Consumer Complaint form or Print a Consumer Complaint form.