LILBURN, Ga. - A local dermatology chain that once agreed to pay millions to the government to settle a federal lawsuit is now fending off complaints by its customers. The FOX 5 I-Team has exclusive information that the Georgia Attorney General's Office has now opened an investigation.
There are lawsuits against Family Dermatology that claimed the owners threw "extravagant parties" tossing "$100 bills" to their guests. Now its clients are complaining to the state and to the Better Business Bureau that they are being billed, not once, but twice for services.
Nothing extravagant here at Ollie and Hollis Pendley's home. They live simply raising a family in their Lithia Springs home. They've worked hard.
"Ever how many stars you can have, we have them because we don't owe anybody anything. And we pay our bills," Ollie Pendley told us.
Same in Spalding County.
Cheryl and James Rankin are retired and keep their expenses in check. Both families are part of the state's investigation into double billing complaints by locally-based chain Family Dermatology.
"Just recently we received a bill in the mail from Family Dermatology stating that we owed for services rendered back in 2012 and 2013," said Cheryl Rankin.
A bill for an outstanding $226. But Ms. Rankin told the state that bill was paid years ago.
"I'm not going to pay for anything I do not owe," she said.
Same thing here. The Pendleys got a $205 bill from a 2014 appointment. Paid already, they told also told the state's Consumer Protection Unit.
The bills came with a note from Family Dermatology's Chief Financial Officer Yinka Adesokan. He writes, "We are within legal statue of limitation timeframes to bill you."
The Pendleys and the Rankins called their insurance companies who had already paid these bills years ago, and both got the same response.
"They said we show you owe absolutely nothing," said Ollie Pendley.
Naturally, they were confused. But, if you look at Family Dermatology's BBB record, Fred Elsberry says, the picture gets clearer. An 'F' rating. An "alert." Hundreds of complaints - many about billing.
And that's the last they'll hear from them. Now, they may get some more bills, but they'll never get the information they're looking for," said Fred Elsberry, metro Atlanta's BBB president.
So we went straight to the source - Family Dermatology owner Dr. Paula Nelson.
We asked to talk to her about the mounting complaints.
"You can call my manager. Yinka Adesokan," the doctor told us.
That's the name on the letters to former patients. But he's more than a manager. He is also Dr. Nelson's husband.
Federal court documents show he recently filed for bankruptcy. But leading up to this, the couple lived life large.
Real estate records show, eight years ago, they bought the Buckhead estate of music star Kenny Rogers for $8.5 million.
In two separate lawsuits, doctors who worked for Family Dermatology claim back in the day Dr. Nelson and her husband had "extravagant parties" where the hosts would "throw $100 bills to attendees" and would "wipe sweat from their foreheads with money." One case was settled. The other case is on hold while the bankruptcy plays out, but the doctor and her husband, in court records, deny the allegations.
The Fox 5 I-Team asked Dr. Nelson again for an explanation for the double billing complaints and about the state investigation.
But she said little then drove off in her Rolls Royce.
Meanwhile, the Rankins and the Pendleys have asked for proof they still owe money after all these years.
"I told them I'd like to have a detailed bill telling me what services were rendered and what was paid by the insurance company and what was received by us," said Cheryl Rankin looking over her old bills.
This instead is the word both families got from their dermatologist's office - final notices before their cases go to a credit bureau.