Medical Examiner performed work without proper license

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — John Roberts needed a medical exam in June as part of his life insurance policy requirements, he believed the man doing the exam had a medical license.

But 6 investigators eventually realized that the man had been doing the work of a doctor for years, even though he wasn’t one.

“I looked at him and said ‘Oh, are you a doctor?’ and he said, ‘Yes, I’m a doctor,” Roberts said. “He wore scrubs, his name on it, ‘Villarreal’ on it. He had a stethoscope. He had all the necessary uniform for a doctor.”

Horacio Villarreal Jr. doesn’t dispute that he passed the exam. But he said he told Roberts he was an unlicensed doctor.

The Texas Medical Board told us that unlicensed doctors cannot perform medical exams.

For 13 years, Villarreal has also been certified as reviewing physician, a licensed physician who reviews lab tests for different agencies and employers, including companies regulated by the Department of Transportation.

A Texas Medical Board review in March found that although Villarreal attended medical school in Mexico, he is not licensed to practice medicine in Texas. Nevertheless, he works here in Corpus Christi.

American Association of Medical Review Officers (AAMRO) President Ted Shults said his company is the one that certified Villarreal.

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Horace Villarreal

“We passed this one up,” Schults said.

AAMRO took a closer look at Villarreal’s credentials in April after being contacted by the 6 Investigates team.

Shults said that’s when the group discovered that the document provided by Villarreal was a diploma from a medical school in Mexico and not a medical license. They asked Villarreal to provide a license, and when he didn’t they withdrew his certification.

“What was submitted to us, we misunderstood as a license, but it wasn’t,” Shults said. “So to a certain extent, I take some responsibility for that, or we take some of it.”

Villareal refused to go on camera, but said on the phone that he went to medical school in Mexico but had never been a licensed doctor anywhere.

“I guess two months, two and a half months ago I was contacted by AAMRO and they asked if I had an active medical license,” he said. “I said ‘no’. I said I never have. However, the director (of AAMRO) mentioned I could get certified.”

Villarreal said that once the company contacted him in April, he stopped doing MRO work. Prior to this, he told us that one of his duties was to review lab reports for people undergoing drug testing at Precision DNA and Drug Testing.

This company, he said, belongs to his wife.

Department of Transportation regulations require MROs to be licensed physicians in Canada, Mexico, or the United States.

Lab Md, based in Atlanta, has a national customer base specializing in the analysis of blood, urine and tissue samples.

CEO Michael Daugherty said this DOT requirement is because a specific skill set is required and the job is important.

“Especially with the Department of Transport, the requirements – we’re trying to protect the public from anyone who abuses drugs or alcohol while operating a transport system, whether it’s an airplane, a bus , delivery system or whatever,” he said.

He said the MRO needs to be separated from the lab.

“That independence and level of education ensures the integrity of the reading and the results,” Daugherty said.

Shults said he informed the DOT that Villarreal was operating as an MRO without a doctor’s license.

But Villarreal say it was AAMRO’s fault for certifying him. He believed he was following the rules and because he got his certification he could operate as an MRO. He also told the Texas Medical Board that he believed because he was certified as an MRO, he could call himself a doctor.

“I didn’t realize it until they pointed it out to me, and, I mean, you know,” he said. “And then they told me, so I stopped doing it.”

But, Daugherty said rules are important.

“It doesn’t matter that you don’t know it,” he said. “It’s a very serious thing, and you know, the authorities — I mean — it’s the integrity of the system,” he said.

“You wonder how he went through so many hoops,” Daugherty said.

In order to become certified, DOT rules require applicants to prove they are licensed physicians to a third party, such as AAMRO. The candidate must then pass a test and every five years he must obtain a new certification. This includes a test and a requirement for ongoing training.

“We do our best to make sure they meet the DOT requirements, for that,” he said. “And we’re basically saying it’s their responsibility to do it. We just have to have – a little bit – some degree of confidence in – we get the scoop,” Shults said.

We followed Villarreal after his visit with John Roberts, and while he admitted making mistakes, he said AAMRO also made mistakes in certifying him.

He said he was now following the rules since the Texas Medical Board and AAMRO contacted him.


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