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TopBlogJeremy Saland and Elizabeth Crotty, founding partners at the New York criminal defense firm Crotty Saland PC, are excited to announce that their New York Criminal Lawyer Blog finished as the top criminal law blog in the nation after the Expert Institute closed its polls and tallied all its votes. Competing against more than 500 blogs where north of 30,000 readers cast their votes for the best legal and top lawyer blogs, the New York Criminal Lawyer Blog did not merely compete, but took home this highest honor of  “Best Criminal Law Blog.” Outpacing multiple dozens of law related blogs (or blawgs), the New York Criminal Lawyer Blog ranked as the best criminal defense blog both in New York and across the entire United States as per readers’ votes. Not stopping there, the blog reached as high as eighth overall across all categories during the top blog competition. Continue reading

Recently, we discussed the history of the Medicare Fraud strike forces set up by the U.S. Department of Justice, Fraud Section, in an effort to combat what was perceived as rampant fraud in the healthcare system.  Recently, local U.S. Attorneys across the country have copied the structure and format of the strike forces within their own offices.

Take for example David Hickton, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, in Pittsburgh, who created his own “mini-strike force.”  He has enlisted four assistant U.S. attorneys from his office to focus exclusively on health care fraud investigations and prosecutions.  He has support from the Pittsburgh Division of the FBI, which is one of the two federal law enforcement agencies charged with investigating health care fraud.  He has also reached out to the HHS-OIG, the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General, the other federal agency investigating the medical industry, asking them to dedicate special agents to the Pittsburgh area.

The idea is to focus manpower on one of the largest and most complex industries in the country in an effort to gain expertise while eradicating millions, if not billions of dollars of fraud, waste and abuse in the healthcare industry. Continue reading

Last week I wrote about the recent national healthcare fraud takedown by the Department of Justice and its Medicare Fraud Strike Force.  We discussed the four cases brought in Brooklyn by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York – U.S. v. Onyekwere, 14 CR 274; U.S. v. Thornhill, Thornhill and Johnson, 14 CR 278; U.S. v. Margossian; and U.S. v. Ahmed, 14 CR 277.

While these cases concern different offenses and schemes to defraud; one thing in common is the analysis that will be employed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the defense attorneys during plea negotiations regarding a potential sentence.

In virtually all Federal criminal cases, the Judge must consult the United States Sentencing Guidelines – this is a book that determines the seriousness of each offense as well as the criminal history of the defendant through a point (or “level”) system.  The idea is to make sure similarly situated defendants are treated virtually the same by all Federal Judges throughout the country.

In determining the seriousness of the offense, the Guideline establishes a “base offense level” for every Federal crime.  It then calculates “specific offense characteristics” – things that may or may not be a part of each case.

For purposes of Healthcare Fraud cases, the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as “Obamacare”) changed, quite significantly, how that calculation is made. Continue reading

In our last post, we discussed the history and tactics of the Department of Justice’s Medicare Fraud Strike Force.  We also talked briefly about the recent Healthcare Fraud nation-wide “takedown.”  But as we also mentioned, this was not one giant case involving 90 defendants, but rather dozens of cases, scattered throughout six different cities.  Each one of those cases has a different history; a different story.  From a practical perspective, it can be instructive to take a look at all the cases charged in a particular Strike Force city to get a feel or a sense of what types of cases are being brought there and how the government investigates healthcare fraud differently in different places.  In this installment, we’ll start off by looking at the four cases brought in the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn.

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In March 2007 the Medicare Fraud Strike Force originated in South Florida as a ground-breaking joint effort between the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division Fraud Section, the U.S Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, as well as state and local law enforcement agencies to prosecute individuals and businesses that did not provide legitimate health care services, but existed and operated for the sole purpose of stealing money from the Medicare coffers.

Over the last seven years, this first-of-its-kind strike force in the health care arena has become a model of innovation in terms of strategy, methodology and practice, but also quite some controversy.  According to the Department of Justice, as of early 2014, the Strike Force, now in nine cities, has charged more than 1400 defendants, who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $4.8 billion.  In addition, hundreds of millions of dollars have been returned to the Medicare Trust Fund through restitution and forfeiture.  The question has been asked, however, whether the government has overreached in some of these healthcare fraud investigations and prosecutions.  This aggressive approach smells from governmental over-reach, and requires anyone charged in a Strike Force case to seek out a Federal Criminal Attorney well experienced in Healthcare Fraud matters to present an effective defense.

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Authoring children’s stories is best left to those with an abundance of creativity. While not the sole career of the imaginative thinker, other fruitful and rewarding opportunities often present themselves (landscape architect would be neat and for the younger set, video game designer). One of those paths in life, however, is not prosecuting crime. Certainly, it helps to think out of the box, but when one gets overly creative in law enforcement (not necessarily the means to catch offenders, but what crimes to charge), for better or worse someone is gonna’ get hurt. The concern is not that being creative in charging crimes is always a bad thing (it is not), but individuals can be “over prosecuted” or prosecuted inconsistently with the intention of a particular statute. If what I have read is correct, base jumpers (not skydivers) James Brady, Marko Markovich, Andrew Rossig and alleged lookout man, Kyle Hartwell, may come to personify this legal exuberance.

According to reports, Brady, Markovich, Rossig and Hartwell (I assume Hartwell will be charged as an accomplice or accessory if he is to be charged) are going to turn themselves in to the New York Police Department and be prosecuted by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for Burglary in the Third Degree, pursuant to New York Penal Law 140.20. A person is guilty of Burglary in the Third Degree when he or she he knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a building with intent to commit a crime. This felony carries a potential punishment and sentence of up to seven years in prison. Continue reading

While there is likely a significant amount of investigation that has yet to occur, the sad reality is that many innocent people were terribly injured and died when a Metro North train from Poughkeepsie skid, rolled and tumbled off the tracks near the Hudson Line’s Spuyten Duyvil station in The Bronx. With Engineer William Rockefeller at the helm of the train allegedly barreling over 80 mph in a 30 mph zone, reports indicate that the Mr. Rockefeller applied to brakes too late causing the death and devastation. Although much more information is needed to fully understand what transpired in the Bronx, and I am not aware of whether or not Rockefeller had alcohol or drugs (prescription or otherwise) in his system, Rockefeller may be in for a long drawn out legal battle not just from those who may pursue civil suits against him and the MTA, but from a potential arrest and indictment by the Bronx County District Attorneys Office.

Before proceeding, it should be very clear that I have no information beyond what is provided through local media outlets. Further, in no way am I insinuating Rockefeller is guilty of any crime. Fortunately, every individual has the presumption of innocence – not guilt – on his or her side. Having said that, if a prosecution is brought against Rockefeller and the Bronx District Attorney seeks an indictment, what are the potential criminal charges?

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What is likely being hailed as a major victory for law enforcement, Queens County District Attorney Richard Brown has announced the arrest of more than two dozen individuals involved in a Trademark Counterfeiting enterprise and the recovery of more than $500,000 in cash and fake goods with a street value of approximately $750,000. According to the Queens DA’s press release, the investigation that netted the haul of contraband and cash was dubbed “Operation Finish Line.” A three year investigation by prosecutors, Operation Finish Line netted the indictment of multiple crews as as well as businesses. These alleged organized crews imported imposter goods from China and distributed fake and fraudulent designer brands, including True Religion and Polo, throughout the United States. These rings generated approximately $10 million annually in their alleged counterfeit scheme.

While the individual and corporate defendants face a variety of crimes, many of the offenses are extremely serious that could result in as much as fifteen or twenty five years in prison. In fact, a dozen of those arrested in Queens face the charge of Enterprise Corruption (New York Penal Law 460.20). NY PL 460.20, is New York State’s version of the organized crime statute used by federal authorities to go after organizations such as the mob. Where there is a common goal, criminal scheme and ascertainable structure, prosecutors pursue this crime as the “hammer” in a criminal case for a very clear and obvious reason. It is certainly not missed by an experienced New York Criminal defense attorney who practices with regularity in criminal and supreme courts. Simply, if you are convicted of Enterprise Corruption as a person who has no prior brushes with the criminal justice system you will still face a minimum term of one to three years in state prison and as much as eight and one third to twenty five years.

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While the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office will not be resolving the age old question of whether a dentist is in fact a “doctor” (I do not want to be accused of being an antidentite by-the-way), DA Thomas J. Spota’s Herculoids (a little homage to Hana Barbara, folks), will soon be addressing whether a dentist can be criminally reckless if he or she performs procedures on a patient while intoxicated. According to reports, police arrested Robert B. Garelick, a Lindenhurst dentist, for Second Degree Reckless Endangerment (New York Penal Law 120.20) after he was accused of this exact conduct.

An “A” misdemeanor, Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree is punishable by a year in jail. You are guilty of NY PL 120.20 if you recklessly engage in conduct which creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person. To be clear, your conduct is not sufficient if it “may” or can “possibly” cause any type of injury, but creates a substantial risk of a physical injury that is legally classified as serious.

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According to reports, rapper-singers Drake and Chris Brown, along with their respective entourages, OD’d in testosterone and supposed manhood at Manhattan’s club W.I.P. Whether it was the result of one too many cocktail, it is alleged that Drake taunted Brown over the former’s “between the sheets dancing” with the over-hyped songstress, Rihanna. If reports are true, the sensitive Brown and sophomoric Drake engaged in bottle tossing mayhem that resulted in what appears to be some fairly serious injuries. Although this blog entry will not address the civil liability of SoHo’s club W.I.P. or the two Top 40 knuckleheads for the alleged brawl, there certainly could be arrest charges in Manhattan should the police and prosecutors be able to identify individuals and their conduct during the “chivalrous bout” over Rihanna’s honor.

If the police can identify the person who instigated the melee as well as those who were involved in and advanced the shenanigans, prosecutors must also be able to establish their respective actions. Not addressing all of the issues that would arise in a prosecution, what are some of the charges a defendant could face should everything fall into place for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office?

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