Articles Posted in White Collar Crime

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McKnight, a bartender, became friends with Fewlas. McKnight rented an apartment in his duplex. For 17 years, McKnight lived in this upstairs apartment with her boyfriend, Kurt. Fewlas and McKnight did not always get along. Fewlas disliked Kurt. Fewlas died, having accumulated more than $2.2 million. McKnight went on a spending spree. She withdrew over $600,000 in 171 different transactions—all in amounts less than $10,000. This suspicious conduct got the IRS’s attention; the IRS suspected that Fewlas had not left his estate to McKnight. Kurt confessed that he had forged Fewlas’s signature on a fake will, prepared by attorney Pioch. His confession resulted in multiple convictions. The Sixth Circuit affirmed in part, rejecting a Confrontation Clause claim based on the admission of Kurt’s videotaped deposition testimony. Kurt was 76 years old, in poor health, and unable to travel at the time of trial. The court also upheld the admission of testimony concerning handwriting analysis. The court remanded for reconsideration of a motion for a new trial because the court conflated the rules, repeatedly characterizing its task as evaluating the sufficiency of the evidence, rather than weighing the evidence for itself. The court vacated the sentences: the court enhanced sentencing ranges after concluding that the defendants caused financial hardship to the putative beneficiary of Fewlas’s estate but the Guidelines did not contain that enhancement at the time of the misconduct. View "United States v. Pioch" on Justia Law

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Ayers, an experienced Kentucky criminal-defense attorney, was indicted in 2008 on five counts of failing to file state tax returns. Ayers represented himself throughout the 21 months between his indictment and trial, but never formally elected to do so. He never waived his right to counsel on the record, filed a notice of appearance, or moved to be allowed to proceed pro se. The court allegedly failed to inform him at his arraignment that he had a right to counsel and never subsequently sought to determine whether Ayers’s self-representation was a voluntary, intelligent, and knowing waiver of his right to counsel. When Ayers asked for a continuance a day before trial was scheduled to begin so that he could hire an attorney with whom he attested he was already in negotiations, the court denied his request and forced him to proceed pro se. Ayers was convicted. The Sixth Circuit reversed the district court’s denial of habeas relief. The Kentucky Supreme Court acted contrary to clearly established Supreme Court precedent when it held that trial courts need not “obtain a waiver of counsel” before allowing “experienced criminal trial attorneys” to represent themselves. Applying de novo review, the court concluded that Ayers did not validly waive his right to counsel. View "Ayers v. Hall" on Justia Law

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In 2010, the defendants formed PremierTox, a urinalysis testing company: Doctors Peavler and Wood owned a substance abuse treatment company, SelfRefind; Doctor Bertram previously worked for SelfRefind. Bottom and Walters owned a drug testing service and laboratory. Physicians at clinics ordered urinalysis tests to check if their patients used illicit drugs and to monitor their medications. PremierTox was to receive those urine samples, perform the testing, and report back. In October 2010, SelfRefind began to send frozen urine samples to PremierTox for testing, but PremierTox did not have the correct equipment. In 2011, after PremierTox bought the necessary, expensive machines, they broke down. Urine samples from SelfRefind piled up. PremierTox started testing them between February and April 2011 and finished testing them in October. Over the same period, it tested and billed for fresh samples as they came in, aiming for a 48-hour turnaround. PremierTox billed insurers, saying nothing about the delays. The defendants were charged with 99 counts of health care fraud and with conspiracy. A jury acquitted them of conspiracy and 82 of the health care fraud charges and convicted them of 17 health care fraud charges. The trial judge imposed sentences of 13-21 months in prison. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the convictions. A reasonable jury could find that the defendants violated 18 U.S.C. 1347 by requesting reimbursement for tests that were not medically necessary. View "United States v. Walters" on Justia Law

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Williams, a CPA, was manager or co-owner of Sexton’s Kentucky companies. Flynn was the office manager. From 2006-2010, they secured loans by misrepresenting the businesses’ assets and the identity of the true borrowers. The total amount disbursed from the banks was $8,160,400. Sexton and Williams submitted applications for higher loan amounts ($13,600,000 and $13,800,000) toward the end of the time period involved, but those funds were never disbursed. In 2016, the three and a bank loan officer were charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1349 and 18 U.S.C. 1344(1) (Count 1) and bank fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1344(1) and 18 U.S.C. 2. The indictment also alleged forfeiture to the U.S. under 18 U.S.C. 981(a)(1)(C), 982(a)(2)(A), and 28 U.S.C. 2461(c). Sexton pleaded guilty to Count 1. The government moved to dismiss Counts 2–24. Sexton’s PSR gave Sexton a four-level increase for being an organizer or leader under USSG 3B1.1(a); one criminal history point under USSG 4A1.1(c), 4A1.2(m), and 4A1.2(f) for a 2005 California sentence for willful infliction of corporal injury to which Sexton pleaded nolo contendere; and two criminal history points under USSG 4A1.1(d) for committing the instant offense while on probation for the California sentence. Sexton’s guideline imprisonment range was 97–121 months. The court sentenced Sexton to 109 months’ imprisonment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed that sentence and orders that he pay $2,637,058.32 in restitution and forfeit property to the government, including a money judgment of $2,534,912. View "United States v. Sexton" on Justia Law

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Dr. Paulus, a cardiologist at Ashland, Kentucky’s KDMC, was first in the nation in billing Medicare for angiograms. His annual salary was around $2.5 million, under KDMC’s per-procedure compensation package. In 2008, HHS received an anonymous complaint that Paulus was defrauding Medicare and Medicaid by performing medically unnecessary procedures, 42 U.S.C. 1320c-5(a)(1), 1395y(a)(1), placing stents into arteries that were not blocked, with the encouragement of KDMC. An anti-fraud contractor selected 19 angiograms for an audit and concluded that in seven cases, the blockage was insufficient to warrant a stent. Medicare denied reimbursement for those procedures and continued investigating. A private insurer did its own review and concluded that at least half the stents ordered by Paulus were not medically necessary. The Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure subpoenaed records and concluded that Paulus had diagnosed patients with severe stenosis where none was apparent from the angiograms. Paulus had retired; he voluntarily surrendered his medical license. A jury convicted Paulus on 10 false-statement counts and on the healthcare fraud count. It acquitted him on five false-statement counts. The court set aside the guilty verdicts and granted Paulus a new trial. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The degree of stenosis is a fact capable of proof. A doctor who deliberately inflates the blockage he sees on an angiogram has told a lie; if he does so to bill a more expensive procedure, then he has also committed fraud. View "United States v. Paulus" on Justia Law

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Brookdale employed Prather to review Medicare claims before their submission for payment. Many of these claims were missing required certifications from physicians attesting to the need for the medical services provided. Certifications must “be obtained at the time the plan of care is established or as soon thereafter as possible.” 42 C.F.R. 424.22(a)(2).Prather filed a complaint under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729, alleging an implied false certification theory. The district court dismissed her complaint. The Sixth Circuit reversed in part, holding that Prather had pleaded two claims with the required particularity and that the claims submitted were false. On remand, the district court dismissed Prather's Third Amended Complaint in light of the Supreme Court’s 2016 clarification of the materiality element of an FCA claim. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Prather sufficiently alleged the required materiality element; the timing requirement in section 424.22(a)(2) is an express condition of payment and Prather alleges that the government paid the claims submitted by the defendants without knowledge of the non-compliance, making those payments irrelevant to the question of materiality. Section 424.22(a)(2) is a mechanism of fraud prevention, which the government has consistently emphasized in guidance regarding physician certifications and Prather adequately alleged “reckless disregard” of compliance and whether this requirement was material. View "Prather v. Brookdale Senior Living Community" on Justia Law

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As a school principal, Buendia took kickbacks from Shy. Detroit Public Schools (DPS) paid Shy for supplies he never delivered. Some of the money came from the federal government. The FBI searched Shy’s home and found a ledger of kickbacks Shy owed Buendia. Buendia was convicted of federal-programs bribery, 18 U.S.C. 666(a)(1)(B), and sentenced to 24 months’ imprisonment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting her argument that the district court violated her constitutional right to present a complete defense when it excluded evidence of her kickback expenditures and the alleged receipts of expenditures for school purposes. The right to present a complete defense yields to reasonable evidentiary restrictions. The court correctly excluded as irrelevant evidence of how Buendia spent the kickback money and correctly excluded the receipts of school expenditures as hearsay. Regardless of how Buendia eventually spent the money, she “corruptly solicit[ed]” it because, by awarding contracts to Shy in exchange for kickbacks, she subverted the normal bidding process in a manner inconsistent with her duty to obtain goods and services for her school at the best value. Nor did the government open the door" by introducing testimony that Buendia bought massages using a gift card from Shy to show that she accepted kickbacks. View "United States v. Buendia" on Justia Law

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The Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (G-RAP), designed to increase recruiting to the Air National Guard during the “War on Terror” was run by Docupak, a private corporation. Docupak selected and trained Recruiting Assistants (RAs) to find and direct potential airmen to full-time recruiters. The program paid a $1,000 pre-loaded gift card upon actual enlistment of a potential airman and another $1,000 upon the airman’s completion of training. The RAs were to identify individuals that were not already working with a full-time recruiter and were prohibited from splitting the payment with full-time recruiters. Osborne, a full-time recruiter, was accused of referring names of pre-existing recruits to RA Andolsek so that they could claim the incentive, with kickbacks to Osborne. Osborne was charged with aiding Andolsek in embezzling from the Department of Defense, 18 U.S.C. 641; 18 U.S.C. 2, which “caused” the Department to reimburse Docupak for $9,000. Andolsek pleaded guilty and testified against Osborne. Osborne argued that the funds were stolen from a private contractor, so they only violated Docupak’s internal policy, not a federal regulation. The Sixth Circuit reversed Osborne’s conviction. No reasonable jury could have found that the funds were something of value to the government beyond a reasonable doubt, given the evidence of control. The government did not retain a reversionary interest in the funds and imposed few restrictions. Docupak gave the government access to information, but the government did not retain the right to conduct audits. View "United States v. Osborne" on Justia Law

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The Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (G-RAP), designed to increase recruiting to the Air National Guard during the “War on Terror” was run by Docupak, a private corporation. Docupak selected and trained Recruiting Assistants (RAs) to find and direct potential airmen to full-time recruiters. The program paid a $1,000 pre-loaded gift card upon actual enlistment of a potential airman and another $1,000 upon the airman’s completion of training. The RAs were to identify individuals that were not already working with a full-time recruiter and were prohibited from splitting the payment with full-time recruiters. Osborne, a full-time recruiter, was accused of referring names of pre-existing recruits to RA Andolsek so that they could claim the incentive, with kickbacks to Osborne. Osborne was charged with aiding Andolsek in embezzling from the Department of Defense, 18 U.S.C. 641; 18 U.S.C. 2, which “caused” the Department to reimburse Docupak for $9,000. Andolsek pleaded guilty and testified against Osborne. Osborne argued that the funds were stolen from a private contractor, so they only violated Docupak’s internal policy, not a federal regulation. The Sixth Circuit reversed Osborne’s conviction. No reasonable jury could have found that the funds were something of value to the government beyond a reasonable doubt, given the evidence of control. The government did not retain a reversionary interest in the funds and imposed few restrictions. Docupak gave the government access to information, but the government did not retain the right to conduct audits. View "United States v. Osborne" on Justia Law

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Porter, the mayor of Paintsville, Kentucky, steered business and contracts to companies owned by his co-defendant, Crace, and ensured payment of a fraudulent invoice to Crace’s company, in return for payments disguised as loans. Porter was charged with theft concerning programs receiving federal funds, 18 U.S.C. 666(a)(1)(A), and bribery concerning such programs, section 666(a)(1)(B) and was sentenced to 48 months of imprisonment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the conviction under section 666(a)(1)(B) was unsupported by sufficient evidence and that the admission of a witness’s prior statements to investigators and the admission of another witness’s deposition testimony violated his confrontation rights. A conviction under section 666(a)(1)(B) does not require evidence of a quid pro quo “in connection with” any “official act.” It is enough if a defendant corruptly solicits anything of value with the intent to be influenced or rewarded in connection with some transaction involving property or services worth $5000 or more. Testimony concerning prior statements to investigators did not violate Porter’s confrontation rights because they were not offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. The government sufficiently demonstrated the unavailability of the deposition witness to testify at trial, so no Confrontation Clause violation occurred. View "United States v. Porter" on Justia Law