Jury finds Harron, law firm guilty of racketeering - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Jury finds Harron, law firm guilty of racketeering

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Dr. Ray Harron, a radiologist, owned this building in Bridgeport. Dr. Ray Harron, a radiologist, owned this building in Bridgeport.
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WHEELING (AP) — A federal jury has found a West Virginia radiologist and two Pittsburgh attorneys guilty of conspiring to fabricate asbestos claims.

The Wheeling jury on Friday ordered Pennsylvania-based attorneys Robert Peirce and Louis Raimond and retired Bridgeport radiologist Ray Harron to pay CSX Transportation more than $429,000, which could be tripled because they were convicted of civil racketeering charges.

Harron diagnosed tens of thousands of asbestos claims for the attorneys. In 2007, he agreed to stop practicing in Texas, where he was under investigation by that state's Medical Board for thousands of questionable diagnoses of the lung disease silicosis.

CSX filed the initial lawsuit against the Peirce law firm and Robert Gilkison in 2005 after learning that the Pittsburgh-based lawfirm represented two CSX employees who devised a plan to defraud the railroad company. According to CSX's lawsuit, an employee who had been diagnosed with asbestosis agreed to appear at an X-ray screening for another employee who did not show signs of the illness. The CSX lawsuit said Harron was the doctor who reviewed those X-rays.

Harron has been under scrutiny for a number of years in other legal cases as well as in major news stories. In 2006, the New York Times published an article highlighting problems surrounding asbestosis and silicosis litigation. For years, workers have been suing their employers for exposing them to toxic substances that cause the two incurable lung diseases.

The Times article highlighted Harron's practice in Bridgeport, saying Harron made more than 75,000 lung injury diagnoses since the mid-1990s. The article said he commonly read more than 150 X-rays a day. It continued by saying the doctor was paid $125 per X-ray.

If that is true, Harron made millions in just a few years.

An attorney representing Peirce, Raimond & Coulter said in a 2007 State Journal article the firm had nothing to do with the deception. In court documents, he wrote the firm does no contest that the two employees plotted to defraud the railroad company. But he said the law firm was not involved in the scheme in any way.  He also said Gilkison, who was a contract employee of the firm who specialized in screening potentially injured workers, also was not involved in the deception.

The trial began Dec. 11.

The State Journal's Beth Ryan contributed to this story.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.