On May 11, the Minnesota Supreme Court disbarred longtime personal injury attorney Bradley Ratgen. Next month, Ratgen will head to federal prison.
Ratgen had been licensed to practice law since 1995. He operated Ratgen Personal Injury Law Firm LLC in St. Paul. Now, his 28-year legal career is coming to an end following an investigation that led to a federal conviction for conspiracy to commit health care fraud.
Minnesota’s no-fault auto insurance law requires insurers to pay for their clients’ medical bills regardless of who was at fault for a crash. While the law protects those with legitimate injuries, it has been exploited by both lawyers and medical professionals to get payouts.
In June 2015, a confidential informant with the Minnesota Commerce Fraud Bureau (CFB) contacted a person known to be a “runner,” or a person who recruits people who have allegedly been injured in car accidents to sue auto insurance companies for bodily injuries. The runner, who was known by the CFB to be paid by Ratgen, told the confidential informant that they could receive $500 for every allegedly inured person recruited. Afterwards, the runner said, those individuals would become clients at Ratgen’s law firm. Under Ratgen’s representation, those individuals would demand money for injuries from the automobile insurance companies.
Two undercover CFB agents posed as a couple who had recently been in a car together. After being introduced to the “patients,” the runner brought the couple to Ratgen, and they signed paperwork to have Ratgen represent them in their bodily injury cases. Another confidential informant, who was paid to go to a chiropractor’s office following a fake car accident, was signed on by Ratgen as a client. Ratgen sent a demand letter to State Farm for a $30,000 settlement.
In July 2021, Ratgen was informed that he was the target of the health care fraud investigation. Nevertheless, Ratgen continued to negotiate the State Farm settlement. State Farm ended up paying out only $3,500.
As far as the CFB could say with certainty, Ratgen’s scheme began in 2015 and ended in late 2021. All in all, Ratgen attempted to cheat $60,000 out of insurance companies. He succeeded in getting $22,748 in illegal payouts. It is unclear how long the scheme went on.
Ratgen pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud. He received a sentence of 16 months in prison with one year of supervised release. His sentence also includes a $10,000 fine. Ratgen will pay $22,748 in restitution to four insurers.
Disciplinary proceedings accompanied the criminal charges. The Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility filed a disciplinary petition in July 2021 regarding Ratgen, prior to charges being filed. Those counts included false statements to the OLPR director, collection of unreasonable fees on uncontested no-fault benefits, facilitating illegal kickbacks from chiropractors to clients, and payment of referral fees to runners. That petition was amended in March 2023 following the resolution of the legal case. The OLPR and Ratgen stipulated to disbarment on March 14, and Ratgen waived his procedural rights.
Ratgen was previously admonished and placed on private probation. Ratgen was admonished in 2004, for filing a frivolous and insufficiently documented attorney’s lien, again in 2009 for failing to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of her matter, and in 2015 for not making reasonable efforts to ensure that his firm had measures in place to make sure non-lawyer staff’s conduct was compatible with his professional obligations. Then, in 2010, Ratgen was placed on private probation for failure to diligently pursue a client matter and noncommunication with three clients.
Ratgen is not the only Minnesota attorney who has engaged in this conduct. William Kyle Sutor, a Minnetonka attorney, was sentenced in November 2020 to 16 months in prison for conspiracy to commit health care fraud by having runners recruit clients who were allegedly injured in car crashes.
Ratgen will report for prison on June 20.