Justia Public Benefits Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in White Collar Crime
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Petitioner John Halaseh petitioned the Colorado Supreme Court to review a court of appeals' remand order to his underlying appeal, which directed the district court to enter four convictions for class 4 felony theft in place of the single conviction of class 3 felony theft that was reflected in the charge and jury verdict. The appellate court reversed the class 3 felony on grounds that when the statutory authorization for aggregating separate acts of theft was properly applied, there was insufficient evidence to support a single conviction for theft of $20,000 or more. It also found, however, that there was sufficient evidence to support four separate convictions for aggregated thefts with values qualifying as class 4 felonies, and that substituting these four class 4 felony convictions for the vacated class 3 felony conviction was necessary to fulfill what it understood to be its obligation to maximize the effect of the jury’s verdict. The Supreme Court disapproved of the appellate court's judgment, finding no theft offense required the aggregation of two or more separate instances of theft, whether that aggregation were to be based on commission within a period of six months or on commission as a single course of conduct, was a lesser included offense of the class 3 felony of which Halaseh was actually charged and convicted. Further, no such offense was implicitly found by the jury, and therefore none could be entered in lieu of the reversed conviction without depriving the defendant of his right to a jury trial. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Halaseh v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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Medicare pays for doctors’ home visits if a patient is homebound. Mobile Doctors offered physician services to homebound Medicare beneficiaries, hiring doctors who assigned their Medicare billing rights to the company. Upon receipt of payment, Mobile would pay the physician-employee a percentage of what Mobile received from billing Medicare. Many of Mobile’s patients did not actually qualify as homebound. Some doctors signed certifications for additional unneeded treatment from companies that provided at-home nursing or physical therapy services—companies that had referred the patients to Mobile. Mobile submitted Medicare codes for more serious and more expensive diagnoses or procedures than the provider actually diagnosed or performed. Mobile instructed physicians to list at least three diagnoses in the patient file; if the doctors did not list enough, a staff member added more. Mobile only paid the physicians if they checked at least one of the top two billing codes. Doctors who billed for the higher of the top two codes were paid more. Mobile also paid for “standing orders” for testing, although Medicare prohibits testing done under standing orders. Daneshvar joined Mobile as a physician in 2012. After following Mobile’s policies Daneshvar was convicted of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud but found not guilty of healthcare fraud; he was sentenced to 24 months' imprisonment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Daneshvar’s trial was fair; none of the district court’s rulings during that proceeding should be reversed. There was no reversible error with his sentencing. View "United States v. Daneshvar" on Justia Law

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Nita and her husband, Kirtish, pled guilty to defrauding Medicare (18 U.S.C. 1347), based on having forged physicians’ signatures on diagnostic reports and having conducted diagnostic testing without the required physician supervision. The government then brought this civil action for the same fraudulent schemes against Nita, Nita’s healthcare company (Heart Solution), Kirtish, and Kirtish’s healthcare company (Biosound). The district court granted the government summary judgment, relying on the convictions and plea colloquies in the criminal case, essentially concluding that Nita had admitted to all elements and issues relevant to her civil liability. Nita and Heart Solution appealed. The Third Circuit affirmed Nita’s liability under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729(a)(1)(A) and for common law fraud but vacated findings that Heart Solution is estopped from contesting liability and damages for all claims and Nita is estopped from contesting liability and damages for the remaining common law claims. The district court failed to dissect the issues that were determined in the criminal case from those that were not, lumping together Nita and Heart Solution, even though Heart Solution was not involved in the criminal case. It also failed to disaggregate claims Medicare paid to Nita and Heart Solution from those paid to Kirtish and Biosound. The plea colloquy did not clarify ownership interests in the companies; who, specifically, made certain misrepresentations; nor whether one company was paid the entire amount or whether the payments were divided between the companies. View "Doe v. Heart Solution PC" on Justia Law

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In this case, a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”) recipient, Cindy Gonzalez, was found to have defrauded the federal government of $6,159 worth of SNAP benefits by representing that she lived alone and did not receive any income, when in fact she was not living alone and was receiving income. After discovering this wrongdoing, the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services (“DHSS”) brought an administrative proceeding against Gonzalez to disqualify her from continued participation in SNAP and claw back the benefits she received through her misrepresentations. The hearing officer found that DHSS had established intentional program violations and disqualified Gonzalez from continued participation in SNAP for one year, and DHSS’s audit and recovery arm assessed an overpayment of $6,159, which the federal government has started to collect by offsetting the other federal benefits she receives against her SNAP obligations. About five months after the DHSS final decision, the State of Delaware brought a civil action against Gonzalez under Delaware common law and the Delaware False Claims and Reporting Act based on the same circumstances underlying the DHSS administrative proceeding. This time, however, the State sought between approximately $200,000 and $375,000 in restitution, damages, and penalties; attorneys’ fees and costs; and an order enjoining Gonzalez from participating in SNAP until she pays the judgment. Gonzalez in turn filed an answer asserting an affirmative defense that federal law preempted the State’s Delaware law claims, and the State moved for judgment on the pleadings. The Superior Court granted the State’s motion, holding that federal law did not preempt the State’s claims. Gonzalez brought an interlocutory appeal of that determination. After review, the Delaware Supreme Court reversed, finding federal law prohibited the State from bringing consecutive administrative and civil actions against a SNAP recipient based on the same fraud. View "Gonzalez v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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RTSI produces and maintains traffic safety systems. Rosenberg was RTSI’s Vice President of Sales. RTSI contracted to manage Chicago's automated red light enforcement program. In 2012, the Chicago Tribune published articles, disclosing an improper relationship between a city employee (Bills) and RTSI. The city removed RTSI’s bid for the new contract. The City Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigated the bribery scheme. RTSI conducted an independent investigation and provided OIG with information. OIG advised Rosenberg that he had a duty to cooperate and that his statements would not be used against him in a criminal proceeding. Rosenberg described the bribery scheme between RTSI and Bills. RTSI terminated Rosenberg’s employment.The Tribune reported that RTSI courted Bills with thousands of dollars in free trips. Rosenberg sued RTSI under the qui tam provision of the City’s False Claims Ordinance, alleging that RTSI engaged in bribery and other illegal activities to obtain a city contract. The city intervened, making additional claims. The court dismissed Rosenberg as relator. The remaining parties settled and moved for dismissal with prejudice. Rosenberg unsuccessfully sought an award of a relator’s share of the settlement and attorney’s fees for his lawyer’s contributions to the case. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that Rosenberg helped to perpetrate the fraud and referring to Rosenberg’s “audacity.” Rosenberg was neither the original source of the information nor was he a volunteer under the ordinance. View "Rosenberg v. Redflex Traffic Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

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Brown, the manager of a company that provided home physician visits, and Talaga, who handled the company’s billing, were convicted of conspiracy to commit health-care fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1349; six counts of health-care fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1347; and three counts of falsifying a matter or providing false statements, 18 U.S.C. 1035(a). The district court sentenced Mr. Brown to 87 months’ imprisonment, 34 months below the Guidelines’ range, stating that a significant sentence was warranted because of the duration of the scheme, the amount of the fraud, the need for general deterrence, and Brown’s failure to accept responsibility. Ms. Talaga was sentenced to 45 months. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Brown’s argument that the court’s assumptions about the need for general deterrence were unfounded and constituted procedural error and Talaga’s arguments that the court calculated the amount of loss for which she was responsible by impermissibly including losses that occurred before she joined the conspiracy. The district court was under no obligation to accept or to comment further on Brown’s deterrence argument. Talaga, as a trained Medicare biller, knew that that the high-volume billings were fraudulent. View "United States v. Talaga" on Justia Law

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Gumila, the head of clinical operations for a company that provided home medical care to the elderly, was convicted of 21 counts of health-care fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1347 and three counts of making a false statement in a health-care matter, 18 U.S.C. 1035. There was testimony from more than 20 witnesses and documentary evidence establishing that Gumila regularly overruled physicians who wanted to discharge patients and instructed employees to bill services at unjustifiably high rates, to claim that patients were homebound even when they weren’t, and to order skilled-nursing services even if no doctor had ever examined the patient. The government estimated Medicare’s financial loss: approximately $2.375 million for unnecessary and upcoded home visits; $9.45 million for unnecessary skilled-nursing services that did not meet Medicare’s requirements; and $3.779 million for oversight services that did not qualify for payment or were never performed. The guidelines range was 151-188 months in prison. Gumila argued that the loss should be limited to payments for the eight patients specifically mentioned in the indictment ($14,449). The judge concluded that the government was not required to present specific evidence to prove the fraudulent nature of each individual transaction contributing to the total loss, determined that the loss estimate was reasonable, imposed a sentence of 72 months, and ordered Gumila to pay $15.6 million in restitution. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, upholding the loss calculation and the prison term as substantively unreasonable. View "United States v. Gumila" on Justia Law

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Social security survivors' benefits are a thing of value of the United States that can support a conviction under 18 U.S.C. 641. Viewed in the light most favorable to the government, the Fourth Circuit concluded that substantial evidence supported defendant's conviction for theft of government property beyond a reasonable doubt. In this case, the jury could reasonably infer from two denied benefits applications that defendant had a motive to file under a different benefits program to again attempt to obtain benefits to which he was not entitled. Finally, the district court's trial management was reasonable and far from an abuse of discretion. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Kiza" on Justia Law

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In 2008, Javidan shadowed Shahab, who was involved with fraudulent home-health agencies. Javidan, Shahab, and two others purchased Acure Home Care. Javidan managed Acure, signing Medicare applications and maintaining payroll. She had sole signature authority on Acure’s bank account and, was solely responsible for Medicare billing. Javidan illegally recruited patients by paying “kickbacks” to corrupt physicians and by using “marketers” to recruit patients by offering cash or prescription medications in exchange for Medicare numbers and signatures on blank Medicare forms. Javidan hired Meda as a physical therapist. Meda signed revisit notes for patients that he did not visit. He told Javidan which patients were not homebound and which demanded money for their Medicare information. The government charged both with health care fraud conspiracy (18 U.S.C. 1347) and conspiracy to receive kickbacks (18 U.S.C. 371). At trial, Javidan testified that she did not participate in and was generally unaware of Acure’s fraudulent business practices. Meda called no witnesses. Javidan and Meda were sentenced to terms of 65 and 46 months of imprisonment, respectively. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting Meda’s claims that his conviction violated the Double Jeopardy Clause and that he was subjected to prosecutorial vindictiveness for refusing to plead guilty and requesting a jury trial in prior case and Javidan’s claims of improper evidentiary rulings and sentence calculation errors. View "United States v. Javidan" on Justia Law

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Lemons applied for social security disability benefits after being diagnosed with a pain disorder caused by inflammation of a membrane that surrounds the nerves of the spinal cord. An ALJ awarded benefits and Lemons began receiving $802 per month. The ALJ, advised that Lemons’s condition was expected to improve, recommended follow-up review. The Administration failed to conduct the review and never contacted Lemons until it received an anonymous letter, including photographs of Lemons engaged in various activities. Investigators conducted surveillance. The Administration initiated review. Lemons responded that she could not pick up anything over 20 pounds nor sit more than 30 minutes without causing increased pain. The Administration discontinued benefits. Lemons appealed and chose to continue benefits during the process. Investigators met with Lemons’s treating physician, and showed her surveillance videos; the doctor revised her assessment and concluded that Lemons could perform some work. A cessation of benefits decision recorded a finding of “Fraud or Similar Fault.” Lemons was convicted of making a false statement, 18 U.S.C. 1001, and theft of government funds, 18 U.S.C. 641. The district court calculated a guidelines range of 27-33 months’ imprisonment, based on an intended loss totaling $284,018.64, varied downward, and sentenced Lemons to 12 months and one day. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Lemons" on Justia Law