A federal judge has denied an inmate's attempt to be released early from prison over COVID-19 fears, saying he's "outraged" the former Edina chiropractor would claim to be "terrified for his life" and yet reject the COVID vaccine.
Adam John Burke, 37, of Minneapolis, was convicted in 2018 of a white-collar fraud scheme to defraud auto insurance companies. He sought "compassionate release" for a medical condition from a minimum-security prison camp in Duluth.
On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Davis denied his motion, saying Burke "appears to have foregone physical activity" in order to increase his body mass index (BMI) in an attempt to make him eligible for early release.
The judge's order cites prison medical records that show Burke is a "healthy, slightly obese" man who was a "buff" individual that "kept up an exercise regiment in prison" apparently until he decided to seek compassionate release by raising his BMI.
Davis says Burke was offered the Moderna vaccine but refused it. And notes that the Federal Prison Camp in Duluth in which he's housed has zero active COVID-19 cases.
"The court is outraged that defendant would profess to be terrified for his life by the COVID-19 pandemic and yet reject a highly effective and safe vaccine," Davis wrote in his order.
"Defendant appears to request that the court reward defendant’s decision to significantly raise his risk of contracting COVID-19 by releasing him into the community where he can serve as a vector for the highly contagious Delta variant and endanger those vulnerable members of our community who are unable to benefit from vaccinations."
The judge said Burke's claim that he can't make an informed decision on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine because he's unable to consult with his physical is "preposterous, particularly given defendant's past education and career in the medical field."
Instead of being released, Davis recommends Burke "return to focus on his physical activity and well-being and accepting the vaccinations offered as the best path forward to ensure defendant's continued health."
Burke was sentenced to 90 months in prison in October 2018 after being convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and 12 counts of mail fraud. He's scheduled to be released on May 18, 2024, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Burke was involved in a multi-million dollar insurance fraud conspiracy in which he hired patient recruiters, called "runners," to solicit car crash victims to attend treatments at his Edina clinic.
He'd pay the runners for each patient they recruited, and the runners would typically pay the patients to induce them to attend treatments at the clinic, a news release said. The scheme was structured to maximize the clinic's billings to insurance companies — Burke would withhold kickback payments to the runners until after the patients had come to the clinic for a certain number of treatment sessions, which ensured the patients continued to go for treatments at his clinic because of the payments instead of for necessary treatment.
The U.S. Attorney's Office says, as a result, he billed millions of dollars to the automobile insurance companies.