Articles Posted in In the News

Some may deem Paul Manafort’s roughly seven and a half year sentence in Federal Court as light, but should the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office prevail in its prosecution of Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, lobbyist and jet-setter will likely not be so fortunate the second time around. While there may be Double Jeopardy grounds that the criminal defense team can explore to dismiss the indictment if close enough to the Federal case, if convicted of First Degree Residential Mortgage Fraud or the lesser offense of Attempted First Degree Residential Mortgage Fraud as reflected in New York Penal Law sections 187.25 and 110/187.25 respectively, Manafort’s days (years?) of yearning for the penthouse will be that much longer as he cools his heels in the Big House.  Whether or not he is deemed a “predicate felon” for his Federal conviction, meaning New York views his plea and sentence as a prior felony in this state, Manafort would face up to 25 years in prison and no less than 1 to 3  years for the class B felony of Residential Mortgage Fraud in the First Degree. In the event he is deemed a “predicate felon,” his minimum sentence would be 4.5 to 9 years “upstate.” All of this ignores the lesser, but nonetheless serious crimes of Attempted First Degree Mortgage Fraud, a class C felony, and the class E felonies of First Degree Falsifying Business Records, Fourth Degree Conspiracy and First Degree Scheme to Defraud. If convicted, as a predicate, Manafort’s sentencing judge would be mandated to incarcerate him to no less than 3 to 6 years and 1.5 to 3 years on these two respective felony classes and a corresponding maximum of 15 and 4 years as a temporary leasee of an 8 by 8 SRO with unobstructed views of New York’s finest concrete and iron construction.

Understanding Residential Mortgage Fraud

If what prosecutors claim is true, Actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin could have Razzy worthy roles starring next to Marlon Brown in a remake of 1989’s “How I Got into College.” The alleged easy way out amateurs who, with others, collectively paid millions of dollars to “assist” their genetic lottery winners’ successful college admission into such universities as USC, Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, Wake Forrest, Ramsey (well, not really), and others, relied on the good old power of the almighty dollar to perpetrate the nationwide college entrance scheme. In lieu of cheating the old-fashioned way, “Operation Varsity Blues,” the relatively unoriginal but cutely named federal bribery and cheating investigation, resulted in dozens of arrests involving paid off Division 1 coaches, photoshopped pictures of high schoolers playing sports when they were likely absorbed in selfie inspired “insta” posts, and some old school cheating on SATs and ACTs. A heck of a scheme if you don’t get caught, this entire criminal enterprise had nothing on the one-man professional test-taking operation and self-proclaimed “GMAT Hero” along with his larger band of [admission slot] thieves. Responsible for taking in excess of 500 GMAT, GRE and TOEFL exams (go ahead, Google “Lu Xu” and “GMAT”), his proficiency  and skill was unparalleled even among his test-taking cohorts. Sorta’ a lesser known of the Uncanny Xmen of the college admissions underground.

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The last time anyone associated with the Washington Redskins opened a can of good old fashion whoop-ass was likely the bludgeoning of John Elway’s Denver Broncos by both Doug Williams and Timmy Smith in Super Bowl XXII. While Jacqueline Kent Cooke may or may not have been a glimmer in her parents’ eyes back in 1988, if the allegations are true as reported by the New York Post and New York Daily News, the heiress now faces criminal charges for at least the second time in her short, but financially enhanced, life. Possibly unfamiliar with the current state of concussions plaguing professional football players, Ms. Kent Cooke is alleged to have made some rather insensitive anti-Semitic statements toward a Jewish lawyer (presumably not former US Senate candidate Roy’s Moore’s Jewish lawyer) followed by a unsportsmanlike slam to the noggin of the fifty plus year old man with her hard sided purse. It is further alleged that Ms. Kent Cooke may have consumed a few too many cocktails

So, with at least three, if not four, full quarters left to play, what is in store for Ms. Kent Cooke as she enjoys the next “few” hours hanging out in Manhattan’s Tombs? What are the potential crimes she may face as she temporarily takes up residence in a dirty jail cell awaiting arraignment in New York County Criminal Court?

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blackmaol-300x208At first she demands a few hundred or even a couple of thousands of dollars. Maybe he tells you he just needs some money because of an emergency, but you know what’s coming. You’re not naive. You can see the writing on the wall. Blackmail. Extortion. Coercion. Harassment. You say to yourself, “I am being blackmailed. I am being extorted. Do I hire an attorney to get my blackmailer to stop? Is there any alternative to stop an extorter other than the police? How do I best keep all of this a secret and not expose my affair, drug use, business fraud or other wrongdoing whether it is my victimizer is telling the truth or concocting a completely bogus story?” While each situation demands a different analysis as to the pros and cons of protecting yourself through the assistance of law enforcement or an attorney and private investigator, the moment you have handed over even one dollar to your blackmailer, he or she has committed the felony of Grand Larceny Extortion. That crime, Fourth Degree Grand Larceny, New York Penal Law 155.30(6), is a class “E” felony with a potential sentence of up to four years in prison. If your extorter threatens violence and some physical injury or to damage your property, the offense jumps to a class “C” felony of Second Degree Grand Larceny, New York Penal Law 155.40(2). Again, irrespective of the amount actually secured from you or the nature of the property, this offense is punishable by as much as fifteen years in prison.

As important as it is to know the consequences of your victimizer’s actions, it does not answer the question as to what you should do. Do nothing and hope that it will stop? File a complaint with the police? Hire an attorney to stop your extorter in his or her tracks? While the first of these options is not much of an option at all, the New York Daily News’ story on Saland Law’s PC’s “Busting Blackmailers” puts one option front and center.

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The New York criminal defense attorneys and former Manhattan prosecutors at Saland Law PC are excited not to announce another case result exonerating a client, avoiding prosecution or securing a non-criminal disposition in a New York City or suburban NYC arrest, but yet another “honor” bestowed upon the criminal defense law firm. No, this recognition has nothing to do with trial advocacy, a “top” NYC criminal lawyer award, or anything of that nature. Our criminal lawyers can never promise a client a certain result, but we can promise that we will do our best to conduct our business in a professional and ethical matter. Now our accreditation and “A+” ranking and review by the Better Business Bureau confirms that what we don’t merely make baseless assertions, but manage the law practice with nothing less than the highest standards.

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TopBlogJeremy Saland and Elizabeth Crotty, founding partners at the New York criminal defense firm Saland Law 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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