Caregiver convicted in extortion attempt
Erik Parel faces up to 10 years in prison for trying to blackmail a doctor out of $80,000
A Pearl City care home operator has been found guilty of extorting a Waipahu doctor of $80,000 after accusing him of allegedly misdiagnosing a client with bed sores.
A Circuit Court jury convicted Erik Parel, 38, of first-degree attempted extortion, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in jail. Parel will be sentenced Aug. 22.
"He doesn't believe he extorted anyone," defense attorney Michael Glenn said after the verdict last month. The defense had argued at trial that the doctor was the one that offered "hush money" because he got caught in a mistake and wanted it to go away. While Parel was hoping to get some money, he didn't get any, Glenn said.
The jury didn't accept Parel's bribery theory, said Deputy Prosecutor Paul Mow. Parel testified that he liked money and that if anyone offered him money, he would take it even if he didn't earn or deserve it, Mow said.
"It's particularly disturbing and outrageous that somebody thinks they can go shake down a doctor for money," Mow said. "I'm pleased the jury saw through all of that and came to a correct verdict."
According to prosecutors, 70-year-old Francine Benzon, who has a history of heart problems and is partially paralyzed and wheelchair-bound, was seen by Dr. Nestor Del Rosario on June 19, 2006. Del Rosario examined the elderly woman's hip at the request of the caregiver who brought her to the office. The doctor wrote "rash/decubitus" on Benzon's chart and prescribed some ointment. Rash is usually the beginning stage of decubitus, more commonly known as bed sores.
Six days later, Parel confronted the doctor, saying he lied about the decubitus. He said a social worker who worked for the agency that placed Benzon at the Parel home also noted no decubitus on the elderly woman and that the caregiver who brought Benzon to the doctor claimed Del Rosario never examined her, Mow said.
Del Rosario defended his diagnosis and offered to write a qualifier next to his earlier diagnosis. But Parel said it was too late and would not leave Del Rosario's office. Del Rosario said he finally asked Parel, "You must want something else, what is it? Money? You want $10,000?"
According to Del Rosario, Parel said words to the effect of "You're a doctor, you can get more than that. But because you and I are Filipino, I won't ask as much as I could -- I'm only going to ask for $80,000." He gave Del Rosario 48 hours to come up with the money.
Del Rosario notified police, who arranged to tape-record his phone calls and had him call Parel to try to negotiate a lower amount.
But Parel wouldn't budge on the call and instead instructed Del Rosario in Ilocano not to talk about those matters in case the doctor was recording their call and to just make the arrangements.
Parel confronted the doctor at his office the next day and refused to leave unless he was given the money. He was arrested by a police detective who had arrived earlier to set up recording equipment on Del Rosario's phone.