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Defense casts doubt on witnesses in Medicare fraud trial

Federal prosecutors have launched their trial against a health care executive accused of fraudulently billing Medicare and Medicaid for approximately $1 billion. The 50-year-old defendant ran over 20 nursing or assisted living homes in Florida. Prosecutors have built their case on secret recordings of conversations between the defendant and two co-conspirators who cooperated with the FBI after entering guilty pleas on criminal charges. The defense attorney warned jurors to remain skeptical of statements from witnesses with criminal backgrounds who might wish to redirect blame onto the defendant.

The defendant's attorney framed criminal accusations of fraud as business disputes over billings to government health programs. The defendant was focused on running his businesses and the treatments described on billings came from doctors.

An assistant U.S. attorney countered these arguments by describing the fraud for the jury. She said that the evidence would show a pattern of fraud and bribery. Doctors were allegedly bribed to bring patients into the defendant's facilities and move them to other facilities when they had exhausted Medicare benefits at the first location. Access to patients was also supposedly sold to other parties who wanted to bill Medicare for illegitimate charges. Government investigators said that the cycle persisted from 2006 to 2016.

Convictions on federal crimes like Medicare fraud could result in lengthy prison sentences. A person targeted by an investigation of medical billing practices to the government might benefit from the representation of a criminal defense attorney. Legal advice might inform a person about rights before answering questions from authorities. An attorney could also question evidence and possibly create sufficient doubt so that jurors acquit a defendant or a prosecutor offers a lenient plea deal.

Source: WFTV, "Opening statements made in $1B Florida Medicare fraud case", Curt Anderson, Associated Press, Feb. 12, 2019

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