Types of Criminal Cases

According to the FBI, crime rates in our region have held relatively steady over the past fifteen years. However, the lingering recession has resulted in an increase in corporate and government agency scrutiny of their financial performance, operating expenses, and the appropriateness of beneficiary payments. It is this oversight, not an increase in criminal activity, that correlates to a tsunami of economic crime prosecutions. Our attorneys have observed a dramatic increase in five distinct types of prosecutions: medical, insurance and prescription fraud, bank fraud, corporate work place embezzlement, government employee/contractor theft and collateral administrative professional license suspension proceedings.

We represent many physicians, chiropractors, pharmacists, and physical therapists. These clients have experienced overwhelming pressure from insurance companies, Department of Health and Human Service inspectors and state insurance departments. Allegations of billing fraud for unlicensed medical treatments, prescription and insurance fraud for ghost services, and drug delivery are common. The sources of these investigations include unhappy clientele, suspicious insurance adjusters, and pro-active special investigative units of insurance companies. Federal narcotic indictments and state related insurance fraud and theft prosecutions are increasing every day. One need only open the newspaper to read about another doctor or pharmacist charged with unprofessional and illegal conduct.

Here, in addition to jail, professional licenses, prescription writing capabilities, and Medicare and Medicaid billing authorization are immediately at risk, even prior to conviction. Our legal practice in this medical licensing subspecialty has risen one hundred percent over the last year. These high profile clients represent a significant catch for any federal or state prosecutor. Significant legal issues need be addressed emergently. In these cases we spend a significant time contesting federal or state forfeiture proceedings of personal and business assets. Various government agencies will seek forfeiture not only for punitive reasons, but to recoup improper insurance payments and payment for the costs of prosecution. These civil proceedings compound the loss of the professional license.

Recently completed mortgage fraud investigations originating from the 2008 housing bubble are spawning numerous federal prosecutions of mortgage providers and their related participants. Common threads in many of our cases are range from allegations involving sales of fake properties, fraudulently inflating property values, property flipping, fraudulent appraisals, and equity skimming to straw buyer mortgage fraud and foreclosure rescue scams. These cases typically carry federal criminal charges of committing, and conspiring to commit, bank fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, and honest services. Our attorneys are seeing increases in cases that center upon jumbo/non-conforming loans, low/no doc loans, liar loans (stated income loans), home equity line of credit, and secondary market/subprime loans from 2005 and after. Questions of who is the victim, who bore the loss, the materiality of the loss, the actual value of the property in question, the veracity of all bank documents submitted, and the intended loss are issues common to each of these types of cases.

White and blue collar employees alike began committing work place theft at the beginning of the 2009 recession. These schemes are now being discovered through management changes, internal audits, and basic expense analysis. The theft offenses include extensive personal use of shipping accounts or company credit cards, submission of fabricated invoices from fictitious entities, or paying personal bills through company electronic bank payments. Potential criminal charges in these cases range from wire fraud, identity theft to forgery. The uptick in this area of criminal defense practice started in 2010, after the first wave of corporate downsizing and its associated work place managerial changes and operating board internal investigations. It continues to this day as more and more work-place frauds are being uncovered.

On the quasi-governmental front, our practice has seen elevated oversight of social service professionals either being investigated for, or charged with, theft from state administered Medicare and Medicaid programs. Many of these cases involve independent contractors hired by separate staffing agencies to provide in-home occupational social services to qualified low-income families. The allegations include overlapping hourly bills submitted by the service provider. Theft amounts range from under ten thousand dollars to over hundreds of thousands of dollars. Here, too, these prosecutions result not only in criminal charges but also in collateral sanctions by state professional licensing authorities and potential exclusion from state administered welfare programs that disburse federal Medicare and Medicaid funds.

Separately, there has been an increase in state investigations and prosecutions for food stamp and welfare-benefit theft. These cases have involved our clients who are government employees and are accused of either fabricating welfare clients to secure improper food stamps, rent, and emergency financial benefits or granting incorrect benefits for actual beneficiaries in exchange for a percentage of the overpayment of benefits. These complex financial investigations last many months and look back over several years of an accused employee’s work place conduct.

Similarly, our small retail food store clients that participate in federal food stamp programs have experienced increased undercover enforcement of Department of Agriculture regulations. A greater percentage of our clients are being charged with fraudulent schemes to process food stamp vouchers into cash for a fee. In these investigations, the government attempts to minimize fraud through criminal prosecution and exclusion from future participation in the food stamp program. Restitution is pursued through seizure of personal and business assets and placement of liens on both personal and business real property and bank accounts. Representation in these matters starts with addressing the criminal charges and possibly maintaining participation in the Food Stamp program. Thereafter, removal of liens on real estate and bank accounts and contesting any forfeiture of non-business related assets is paramount to each client.

The investigators’ pattern of approaching the target in these fraud investigations is the same; appearing at the target’s home, late in the day, seeking a non-confrontational conversation with the employee, pharmacist, doctor, or small business owner. If any admissions are secured, then the target is advised to retain counsel. If the target either denies the allegations or fabricates a story, an obstruction charge is added and a target letter is issued. We preemptively advise all clients that if they are contacted by any investigating authority to identify us as their counsel and ask for a meeting at more convenient time.

Our role as counsel is then immediately clear to any investigator and the client. We then extensively interview the client, timely respond to all investigative queries, determine if pre-arrest cooperation is in the best interest, coordinate any imminent surrender, timely respond to the emergent administrative licensure filings, and legally rally the client’s assets before seizure. Thereafter, issues such as bail, an indictment, business closure or ex parte license suspension proceedings begin to present themselves in short order. Choosing appropriate and experienced counsel is paramount.

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