Former South St. Paul basketball coach dies by suicide, two days before sentencing in federal fraud case – Twin Cities

Former South St. Paul boys basketball coach Matthew McCollister died by suicide Monday, two days before he was convicted of fraud in federal court.

Matthew McCollister (Courtesy of South St. Paul Public Schools)

McCollister, 40, leaves behind his wife and three young children.

He pleaded guilty in January to his role in a scheme to defraud car insurance companies with false medical claims while working as a personal injury lawyer.

Mendota Heights Police Chief Kelly McCarthy said officers were called around 3 p.m. Monday to a possible suicide in the 3600 block of Wesley Court and found McCollister dead in his home.

McCollister was charged in December in United States District Court with criminal conspiracy to commit health care fraud from 2016 to 2017. He was charged with criminal information, a process by which an accused agrees to waive a grand jury indictment and plead guilty.

McCollister resigned from the team and his position as a student support assistant at South St. Paul High School on Jan. 12, the day Pioneer Press first reported the charges and just hours before he’s supposed to plead guilty at the federal courthouse in St. Paul. . This hearing was postponed after his lawyer fell ill.

McCollister pleaded on January 19. Sentencing guidelines called for 10 to 16 months in prison. McCollister remained free on his own recognizance pending sentencing, which was scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina Wright.

“We ask that you give his family time and space to grieve,” his attorney, Ryan Pacyga, said in a statement Tuesday. “There will be no sentencing hearing tomorrow. I have no further comments.

McCollister had been South St. Paul High School’s head basketball coach since November 2019 and was credited with leading the turnaround of a once-struggling program. Prior to joining South St. Paul, McCollister had served as head coach at Breck, St. Croix Preparatory Academy and Brooklyn Center.

FRAUD PATTERN

McCollister was admitted to practice law in Minnesota in 2009. Beginning around 2015, McCollister began his own law practice which focused primarily on pursuing personal injury claims on behalf of people who had been in accidents car.

About a year later, a chiropractor introduced McCollister to a confidential informant who worked with the Minnesota Commerce Fraud Bureau and posed as a “runner,” according to federal prosecutors. A runner is someone who is paid to recruit people who have allegedly been injured in car accidents and then receive chiropractic care paid for by car insurance companies.

McCollister met the racer at the Red Cow restaurant in St. Paul on March 1, 2016, and asked the individual to locate people who were allegedly injured, prosecutors said. McCollister’s idea was to have them then see chiropractors for care and that he would represent them in claims against auto insurance companies for the alleged injuries, according to the plea agreement. McCollister offered to pay the runner $300 or more for each person recruited.

Prosecutors allege McCollister then ordered one of the two undercover patients to be “treated” by chiropractor Huy Nguyen, who is currently serving a prison sentence for his role in the plot.

In December 2015, law enforcement executed a search warrant at Nguyen’s chiropractic clinic, Healthcare Chiropractic, in Brooklyn Park, where McCollister maintained an informal office and spent considerable time, according to U.S. Attorney David MacLaughlin.

“The notoriety of Huy Nguyen could not have escaped Mr. McCollister’s notice,” MacLaughlin wrote in an April 26 memorandum that argued for a 16-month sentence for McCollister.

“McCollister’s brazen use of a known crooked chiropractor” continued throughout 2016 and into 2017, the memo reads. On March 16, 2016, the undercover runner had lunch with McCollister, Nguyen and another now convicted conspirator/MRI specialist named Quincy Chettupally at Fogo de Chao in downtown Minneapolis. The lunch was videotaped without McCollister’s knowledge and the conspirators openly discussed the scheme, prosecutors say.

A grand jury in December 2016 indicted Nguyen in the conspiracy to which McCollister would later plead guilty. In August 2017, the grand jury added Chettupally to the conspiracy tally.

Despite the indictments, McCollister sent two letters to Liberty Mutual Insurance, demanding a $25,000 personal injury settlement for two separate false claims, prosecutors say.

REMOVED

McCollister was the second Minnesota attorney accused and convicted in what has been dubbed “Operation Back Cracker,” an effort by the state Bureau of Commerce Fraud, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to combat personal injury protection fraud cases.

In November 2020, Minnetonka attorney William Sutor was sentenced to 16 months in prison after being found guilty of the same misdemeanor as McCollister.

Pacyga, McCollister’s attorney, planned to plead for a five-month prison sentence followed by house arrest or community supervision.

McCollister “quickly accepted responsibility” by dropping an indictment, Pacyga noted in his April 25 sentencing memorandum. “McCollister lost not one, but two careers,” he added.

McCollister in February was disbarred by the Minnesota Supreme Court for professional misconduct unrelated to the federal charge. He had admitted to intentionally misappropriating more than $16,300 of client funds from his trust account between July 2020 and December 2020.

“Besides the father and husband he was and continues to be, he continues to work on himself with therapy and remains sober even in the face of a federal criminal conviction and the loss of his legal career. and coaching,” Pacyga wrote. in his note.

When McCollister left the team, South St. Paul was 14-0 and among the top ranked teams in Class 3A. Assistant coach Darren Edwards took over as head coach and the team won 14 straight games before losing to DeLaSalle 69-67 in the Division 3 final. South St. Paul’s second straight loss in the Section Final.

Before quitting, McCollister was a full-time student support assistant in high school. In this role, he worked with student support specialists who focus on student behavior.

For help with suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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