BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A Kern County judge on Wednesday denied a motion to dismiss a fraud case against a Bakersfield doctor after the defense argued his constitutional rights had been violated due to the District Attorney’s office receiving privileged attorney-client information.
Judge Elizabet Rodriguez said she reviewed the “very lengthy” motions and, upon hearing argument and reviewing case law, found nothing to indicate Dr. Jason Helliwell would not receive a fair trial. She also refused a motion to recuse the Kern County DA’s office, saying she believes it acted fairly in notifying the court and developing a plan to make sure the current prosecutor and investigators handling the case didn’t view the privileged material.
The communications were contained in what prosecutors said was a massive amount of electronic evidence seized during raids at Helliwell’s office and home. Andrea Kohler, the prosecutor currently assigned to the case, said a protocol was developed for screening out that material.
Helliwell and two others were charged in 2019 with multiple counts of grand theft and making false claims for health benefits. One of the alleged schemes involved an arrangement Helliwell made with a toxicology lab to send patients for unnecessary testing, according to court filings.
Patients weren’t aware they were receiving a comprehensive drug panel, according to the filings, and their insurance companies were billed $1,000 by the lab. A former employee told investigators Helliwell received a kickback for each patient he sent over, reports say.
Helliwell’s next hearing is scheduled March 23. He’s charged with 32 felonies, including multiple counts of grand theft and making false claims for health benefits.
Charges against the co-defendants were dismissed last year. One of them, former lab representative Brandon Williams, has filed a claim — the precursor to a lawsuit — against Kern County. He alleges there was no evidence supporting the charges against him and the publicity surrounding the case caused him to lose his job and miss out on other job opportunities.