December 2009 Archives

December 31, 2009

Miami Doctor Pleads Guilty To Manslaughter

Last week, a Miami psychologist entered a guilty plea to the charges of manslaughter and trafficking in oxycodone. The criminal information alleges that Adam Feder failed to call 911 after his girlfriend overdosed on his private stash of oxycodone in his residence. With the assistance of his Miami criminal defense lawyer, Feder entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to six years in state prison followed by four years of reporting probation. The victim was an alleged former patient who had initially come to see him about grief counseling. She originally sought counseling because her high school boyfriend was involved in a traffic accident that left him in a coma. The 38 year old doctor befriended the 18 year-old when they became involved in a sexual affair.

Manslaughter carries a maximum tern or imprisonment of 15 years while trafficking in oxycodone carries a maximum term of 30 years in prison. With the addition of victim injury points attributable to the death of the victim, Feder was facing maximum of 135 years in prison. While a six year prison sentence is a victory for the Miami criminal attorney and his client, Feder is still subject to 135 years in prison if he is ever alleged to have committed a probation violation. If an individual is placed on probation and is charged by affidavit with a substantive probation violation, he or she faces the maximum prison sentence being faced at the time of the plea.

Feder was charged with trafficking in oxycodone. Oxycodone trafficking charges carry minimum mandatory prison sentences depending on the amount of the controlled substance. Possession in excess of 25 grams of oxycodone subjects defendants to a 25 year minimum mandatory sentence. The charge carries the same sentence as heroine trafficking due the addictive nature of the drug. Oxycodone is legal if it is properly prescribed by a physician. Most people think that trafficking in controlled substances requires that the drugs be transferred for the purpose of sale to another. However, Florida is clear that mere possession of a controlled substance, as long as it exceeds a certain weight, will still constitute trafficking. Sometimes one gram is the difference in being charged with possession or trafficking. If you are charged with this type of charge, it is imperative to retain an experienced Miami oxycodone trafficking defense lawyer to defend your case.

A person can be charged with murder in the first degree under Florida law if a death results from the unlawful distribution of certain controlled substances. Cocaine, heroine and oxycodone are examples of controlled substances that if distributed and cause the death of another can result in a first degree murder charge. The Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office could have conceivably charged Feder with murder as he prescribed the oxycodone for his own personal use an kept it at his residence. However, investigators belief that the victim took the controlled substance to commit suicide. The lack of evidence that Feder provided the oxycodone to the victim probably led to the prosecutor's decision to charge manslaughter.

Psychologist Pleads Guilty in Lover/Ex-patient's Death, The Miami Herald, December 23, 2009.

December 30, 2009

Miami Doctors Under Investigation By Federal Government

The federal government is yet again on the crusade to put an end to Miami medicare fraud. Medicare has ceased paying a Miami doctor who purportedly wrote 97,000 prescriptions to Medicaid patients over a year and half time period. A United States Congressman informed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that Dr. Fernando Mendez-Villamil wrote approximately 153 prescriptions a day over an eighteen months. That figure is more than double any other doctor practicing medicine in the State of Florida. This latest report should make it apparent to Miami doctors and health care providers that others outside Medicare and law enforcement are keenly aware of the levels of fraud being committed in the community.

Congress, with the impending healthcare reform bill, has now involved themselves into criminal investigations. Officials at HHS claimed that they were aware of many healthcare providers that have been allegedly over prescribing medications and that they have been working closely with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to put a stop to it. However, it took a senator from the finance committee to intercede and instruct Medicare to stop paying the bills. Anyone, from doctors to clinic owners being investigated for Medicare care fraud, should immediately contact a Miami Medicare fraud criminal lawyer before speaking to any investigating agency.

HHS says the majority of top prescribers practice medicine in Miami where $3 billion in Medicare fraud is committed on a yearly basis. On the defensive is the vice-president of the Florida Counsel for Community Mental Health who stated that patients in Miami tend to use more medication than other patients around State of Florida and that it may be an anomaly in the data. A spokesman for the Agency for Heath Care Administration (AHCA) said the prescriptions written by the doctor were high, but there is no indication of Medicare fraud. Generally, if an indication of fraud exists, the case will be sent to the AHCA for further investigation. If fraud is suspected, the case will be sent to the Florida Attorney General. The attorney general received approximately 123 referrals last year.

Dr. Mendez-Villamil commonly prescribed Zyprexa, Seroguel, and Abilify. Seroguel is highly sought after because it acts like cocaine when snorted. The drug is also not available in South America, so families try to obtain and send it south to their relatives. The most important thing to glean from this latest investigation is that all levels of government are aware or perceive Miami as the hub of Medicare fraud and that they will spare no expense to quash the problem. All healthcare providers in Miami should be aware that even if there is no wrongdoing, they are under the microscope and could be wrongly investigated and charged..

The federal government is yet again on the crusade to put an end to Miami medicare fraud. Medicare has ceased paying a Miami doctor who purportedly wrote 97,000 prescriptions to Medicaid patients over a year and half time period. A United States Congressman informed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)that Dr. Fernando Mendez-Villamil wrote approximately 153 prescriptions a day over an eighteen months. That figure is more than double any other doctor practicing medicine in the State of Florida. This latest report should make it apparent to Miami doctors and health care providers that others outside Medicare and law enforcement are keenly aware of the levels of fraud being committed in the community.

Feds Investigating High Prescribing Florida Doctors, Florida AP, December 17, 2009.

December 29, 2009

Fraud Schemes Quadruple in 2009

Miami and South Florida lead the country in the number of "Ponzi" schemes uncovered in 2009. However, reports of organized schemes to defraud have popped up from coast to coast. In 2009, about 150 "Ponzi" schemes have been detected with losses that in the range in the area of $16.5 billion. Only 40 "Ponzi" schemes were uncovered in 2008, but the losses exceeded this years mainly due to the Madoff case. The cases of fraud range from a few hundred thousand dollars to the $7.1 billion scheme allegedly perpetrated by Allen Stanford. The latest "Ponzi" scheme that unraveled in South Florida stems from the purported $1.2 billion fraud linked to Scott Rothstein, the once prominent Ft. Lauderdale lawyer. Since his arrest, Rothstein has retained a well-known Miami criminal lawyer to represent him in federal court.

Federal law enforcement agencies have stepped up their efforts to investigate and prosecute "Ponzi" schemes which is the reason for the escalation in numbers from 2008 to 2009. As with every economic downturn, especially the current recession, which is one the worst in the country's history, investor resources dry up and there is no more money take from Peter to pay Paul. "Ponzi" schemes inevitably fail because the infusion of capital fails and there are no funds to pay older investors. When the pool of new investors dries up, so do the schemes to defraud.

Individuals at the top of the "Ponzi" schemes often reap huge returns, but when the bubble bursts newer investors some times lose all of their assets. For example, a retired air force sergeant lost his entire life saving investing in a Minneapolis based venture called "Follow the Money". While the architects of each "Ponzi" scheme use investors' money to fund lavish lifestyles, eventually some portion of investors lose everything once the scheme collapses. Sometimes, investments are in part legitimate, but for the most part are completely fictional.

The name "Ponzi" scheme is derived from the infamous scam artist, Charles Ponzi, an Italian immigrant who duped thousands of people out of approximately $10 million dollars back in 1919. Eventually Ponzi was tried and convicted of wire fraud, sentenced to prison and eventually deported back to Italy. Many investors who have lost life savings claimed that they entered into these schemes to defraud because the promised returns were to good to pass up. Some even claimed to have performed due diligence before investing their money. That just goes to show, the old adage if it seems to good to be true, it probably is, still holds water.

Recession Scares Off New Investors, Ponzi Collapses Nearly Quadruple in 2009, The Canadien Press, December 29, 2009.

December 28, 2009

Internet Causing Ethical Problems for Miami Judges

Miami judges have been put on notice by Florida's Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee that listing lawyers on their list of friends via social networks on the internet is now deemed to be inappropriate. The opinion has caused many judges to remove lawyers' names from their list of friends and contacts. The directive does not specifically address Facebook, but refers to all social networking sites. The advisory applies to circuit and county court judges alike, whether it be in civil or criminal court. While the advisory makes sense, there a bigger concerns.

According to the committee, the problem is with the fact that everyone can see who is on any particular judges's list of friends. The committee issued a statement with the new directive proclaiming that listing lawyers as friends may cause the appearance of a conflict of interest. They cite to a cannon in the ethics code which prohibits judges from doing anything that could "lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of judges or others." It is the opinion of this Miami criminal lawyer, that this latest ruling is absurd in light of other circumstances that have existed in Miami and South Florida's legal community for years. The Florida bar is concerned with judges listing lawyers as friends on their social networks, however, the bar has no problem with lawyers making campaign contributions to the judges they appear before on a daily basis.

Tony Alfiera, a law professor at the University of Miami said the recent ruling protects the appearance of judicial impartiality. Alfieri is quoted as saying, "the integrity and independence of the judiciary as democratic values depend in large part on the good-faith efforts of the judiciary to not only act impartially, but appear to act impartially." What would appear more inappropriate in the public's eyes, judges having lawyers on their list of friends, or receiving money from the same lawyers so they can win an election? Lawyers that contribute to election campaigns have their names made part of the public record.

With that in mind, the ethics committee should issue a directive precluding all lawyers from contributing the election campaigns of judges running for office. Not only does receiving money from lawyers look inappropriate from an ethical standpoint, it is placing an unfair burden on lawyers. Some Miami criminal defense attorneys feel obligated to contribute to election campaigns knowing that judges will know who did not place a check in the mail. The committee should issue an advisory prohibited lawyers from providing campaign funds to judges and prohibiting judges form soliciting money from members of the bar.

Florida Judges Advised to Unfriend Lawyers, Law Technology News, December 21, 2009.

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December 24, 2009

Former CI Set to be Sentenced for Credit Card Fraud and Identity Theft

A Miami man is set to appear for sentencing in federal court for one of the largest credit card fraud and identity theft cases in the country's history. Albert Gonzalez is charged with stealing in excess of 130 million credit card and debit card records from major retail chains. Gonzalez is scheduled to appear in federal court on December 29, 2009 to enter a guilty plea. He previously entered a guilty plea in another case where he is facing similar charges. Miami criminal lawyers have seen an upswing in the number of arrests made in the South Florida and Miami area for credit card fraud and identity theft.

After being arrested on the first case, Gonzalez agreed to cooperate with federal authorities in exchange for a lenient sentence. He worked for the Secret Service and his cooperation led to the arrest of many internet hackers. He also gave lectures in how to combat internet crime to the American banking Association, as well as to many federal law enforcement officers. While acting as a confidential informant he allegedly committed internet fraud by stealing millions of credit and debit card account numbers.

Gonzalez entered into a plea agreement with federal prosecutors where he can be sentenced between 17 and 25 years in prison. Under the plea agreement in the first case, he is facing between 15 and 25 years. The criminal defense attorney representing Gonzalez filed a formal sentencing memorandum seeking a 15 years sentence. The basis for the mitigation is that his clients suffers from a diminished mental capacity caused by Asperger's disorder, an internet addiction made worse by drug and alcohol abuse.

After he enters the guilty plea, a sentencing date will be set a couple of months out so the federal department of probation can draft a pre-sentence investigation report. Pre-sentence investigation reports are used by the judge, the defense and prosecution to allow the court to come up with what is deemed as a fair sentence. The report contains an individuals background and scores out a potential sentence based on the federal sentencing guidelines. The defense attorney has a right to object to any portion of the report. At the federal sentencing hearing the prosecution and defense will argue for specific sentences. At the conclusion of the arguments, a federal judge will hand down the sentence in conformity with the sentencing guidelines.

Hacker's Plea Deal Seeks a 17 to 25 Years in Prison for Theft, Business Week, December 23, 2009.

December 23, 2009

Miami Criminal Lawyers Seek Dismissal in Shredding Case

The Miami criminal lawyers representing two former employees of alleged "Ponzi" artist Allen Stanford requested dismissals from a judge in federal court. Tom Raffanello and Bruce Perraud are currently charged with shredding documents purportedly related to the Stanford case. Stanford is currently being held in a federal jail awaiting trial. He is under indictment for operating a $7 billion organized scheme to defraud or "Ponzi" scheme. A "Ponzi" scheme exists when older investors are paid from the investments of newer investors. U.S. Magistrate Judge Robin Rosenbaum presided over the motions and has yet to rule in favor of the prosecution or the defense.

Raffanello, a former chief in the Miami DEA office, and Perraud were employed by the Stanford Financial Group in the security department until the massive fraud was uncovered by investigators. Raffanello was the chief of global security. Both defendants face four count indictments in federal court related to document destruction. The motions to dismiss revolve around the unavailability of Anthony Belovich, also a former employee of Stanford. Belovich is also a former DEA agent.

Belovich is listed as a witness by the federal prosecutors and named as unindicted co-conspirator in numerous court papers. The Miami criminal defense lawyers representing the defendants have alleged prosecutor misconduct as the basis for their motion to dismiss. They claim that Belovich can provide exculpatory evidence on behalf of their clients. To date, federal prosecutors have not offered Belovich immunity. Unless they do, Belovich will invoke his 5th Amendment rights and refuse to testify if he asked to take the witness stand in federal court. Prosecutors deny any misconduct because they claim that Belovich was not truthful with federal agents and is still under investigation, and therefore cannot offer him immunity.

Raffanello's and Perraud's defense lawyers believe that Belovich can testify that all of the shredded documents were backed up on a computer server. If that is the case, copies of the documents existed, and therefore both individuals were not in violation of a court order to preserve the evidence. Both defendants are currently set for trial on January 19, 2009. They are facing up to 50 years in prison if they are fond guilty on all four charges. The prosecutors may be forced to give Belovich immunity or lose the case entirely.

Dismissal Sought in Stanford Document Shred Case, The Associated Press, December 23, 2009.

December 22, 2009

Medicare Fraud Task Force Keeps Promise: 30 Arrests Made

Federal authorities have fulfilled their promise and have now arrested 30 individuals as part of a Medicare fraud investigation. As of December 15, 2009, only a handful of arrests had been effectuated. Law enforcement officers served search warrants at homes and businesses in Miami and Coconut Creek, Florida. In total, 15 Miami residents have been arrested including doctors and nurses. Those arrested are facing some, if not all of the following charges: Medicare fraud, money laundering, mail fraud and making false statements. Miami criminal lawyers while more than likely be retained or appointed by the court to represent those individuals.

The federal government continues to ramp up the Medicare Fraud Task Force. The task force is now operating in seven cities in the United States including Miami, Los Angeles, Tampa, Baton Rouge, Detroit, Houston and Brooklyn. The Medicare Fraud Task Force is made up of federal, state and local law enforcement assigned the task of using database analysis techniques to combat fraud. The federal government has vowed to save taxpayer's money and the Medicare system by going on the offensive.

A spokesman from the Heath and Human Services issued a statement announcing the expansion of the task force by adding law enforcement agencies to the existing ones in an effort to reduce fraud and recover tax payer money. Several examples of Medicare fraud that have resulted in arrests include the following: in Detroit, individuals have been arrested for owning and operating clinics and paying kickbacks for patients to attend their clinics and feign symptoms to receive expensive neurological testing; in Brooklyn, clinics billed Medicare for unnecessary medical equipment such as expensive shoe inserts used for diabetes patients; and in Miami, doctors and nurses were charged in connection with charging , but failing to provide home health care services.

With the expansion of the Mortgage Task Force, it is apparent that the number of indictments in federal court will increase until the problem is eradicated. If you are contacted by law enforcement regarding an investigation into Medicare fraud, it is imperative to seek the advice of an experienced Miami Medicare fraud lawyer to discuss your options. Under no circumstance, should you speak with investigators without the assistance of an attorney.

Feds Make 30 Arrests in Alleged $61 Million Fraud Scheme, Insurance & Financial Advisor.com, December 22, 2009.

December 21, 2009

Miami Marijuana Trafficking Family Sentenced to Prison

Marijuana trafficking has apparently become a family affair in South Florida. The family in question operated a sophisticated scheme in which they were able to obtain 18 homes in Ft. Pierce, St. Lucie, Miami, Lee and Columbia counties. They used the homes to cultivate large quantities of marijuana. The mortgage fraud scheme occurred during the housing boom and the defendants were able to obtain homes using falsified financial documents. The marijuana trafficking ring was able to cultivate in excess of 1,000 pot plants worth an estimated street value of $1.3 million. South Florida and Miami criminal lawyers represented the defendants at the sentencing hearing in federal court.

The ringleader of the organized scheme to defraud and marijuana trafficking operation was Manuel Pupo. Pupo, a resident of Miami, ran the operation his hometown. Pupo's three brothers were also involved in the marijuana "grow house" operation. The four defendants entered guilty pleas in federal court to charges including conspiracy to distribute marijuana plants, operating a "grown houses", mail fraud and money laundering. Pupo received a seven year prison sentence while his brothers were sentenced to five years in a federal prison.

The marijuana operation came crumbling down when law enforcement officers in Port St. Lucie received an anonymous tip regarding individuals operating a grow house. Investigators were able to located five more house involved in the ring. The investigation revealed that homes were obtained through mortgage fraud using fraudulent bank statements, fake tax returns and falsified W-2 forms and pay stubs. Many investigations into grow house operations have revealed that homes used to cultivate the marijuana were in fact obtained through various forms of mortgage fraud. The defendants were able to keep up with the numerous mortgage payments with the proceeds from the sales of the marijuana.

Despite the increased effort to curtail the number of "grow house" operations in Miami and the South Florida area, law enforcement authorities are still making large number of busts in what are becoming more frequent operations. Generally, law enforcement will spend months gathering information on numerous marijuana operations and conduct search and seizures of numerous houses on the same day. Remember, never consent to the search of the residence. Make law enforcement obtain a warrant before allowing entry into your home.

Miami Family Gets More than 5 Years in Prison for Marijuana Operation in PSL, The Miami Herald, December 18, 2009.

December 17, 2009

Broward Lawyer Has Not Entered Plea Agreement

The South Florida lawyer who allegedly committed a $1.2 billion fraud has not entered into a plea agreement at this juncture in his case. Although a federal prosecutor told a judge in a Ft. Lauderdale federal court that a guilty plea was possible. The Miami criminal lawyer representing Scott Rothstein denied that a plea agreement is imminent. Rothstein did not appear at the routine status hearing. He was arrested on December 1, 2009 and charged with money laundering, racketeering and fraud for allegedly running an elaborate "Ponzi" scheme.

The prosecutor represented to the federal court judge that the discovery process has almost been completed. He also told the judge that trial would last approximately 3 weeks. To date Rothstein, is resting on his initial not guilty plea for bilking investors who purchased false legal settlements. However, Rothstein still has only been charged by information which may mean the prosecutors and defense lawyer are in negotiations.

Despite the fact that Rothstein has been arrested, federal investigators continue to scour e-mails, financial documents and other records in their search for co-conspirators. It is likely that the prosecution will not extend any offers to Rothstein until all of the pieces are in place. Until they have all of the players, they are probably unable to determine how they would use Rothstein as a witness and what cooperation he would need to provide. As the mastermind of the scheme, federal prosecutors may not offer a plea agreement if they do not need his testimony to shore up cases against any of the co-conspirators. As a Miami criminal lawyer who has represented dozen of clients in federal court charged with racketeering and fraud, it appears to be too early in the case to enter into plea negotiations. The time for plea negotiations comes after the discovery process is complete.

Evaluating the evidence in the case is imperative before decided whether plea negotiations should occur or whether the case should be geared up for trial. As an outsider without privy to the discovery, it is difficult to evaluate the case. However, at the onset of the case several text messages from Rothstein to his law partners apologizing for what he has done certainly does not help his case. Rothstein may also have provided a statement to law enforcement which may be admissible. One can only expect that his defense attorney invoked his client's right to remain silent. Any defense lawyer worth a nickel will always advise his client to remain silent unless immunity is given by way of a signed contract.

Whether someone is being investigated or has been arrested for any crime, including cocaine trafficking, racketeering or fraud, never speak to law enforcement about the facts of the case. Even if the statement is self-serving and denies any involvement in the purported crime, it could still be damaging. It is imperative to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to represent your interests. Never try to go it alone.

Prosecutor Hints Plea Deal is Possible in Scott Rothstein Case, MiamiHerald.com, December 17, 2009.

December 16, 2009

Reggae Singer Arrested in Cocaine Trafficking Sting

A popular reggae star will appear in a Miami federal court at a scheduled bond hearing to determine whether he will be granted pre-trial release. A federal magistrate will decide Buju Banton's fate. He will appear with the criminal attorney he retained to at least represent him at the bond hearing. The bond hearing Miami criminal lawyer will argue to the magistrate that his client is not a danger to the community or a flight risk. If the magistrate awards a bond, he will likely attach a Nebbia requirement which demands that money and/or property put up for the bond are proven not be the proceeds of an illegal enterprise. After the hearing, Banton's case will be transferred to Tampa where the case will be assigned a different federal magistrate and judge.

Bantu is charged along with two other co-defendants with cocaine trafficking and conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute. Apparently, on December 8, 2009, Bantu traveled to Sarasota where a meeting was effectuated between Bantu and a confidential informant (CI). The CI convinced the parties to relocate the meeting to a warehouse. At the warehouse, an undercover officer purportedly showed them 20 kilograms of cocaine. The following day, one of Bantu's alleged co-conspirators contacted the CI and told him he was interested in purchasing 15 kilos of cocaine. Eventually, two of the co-conspirators returned to the warehouse where they were arrested. Tape recorded conversations and the actions of the participants is the evidence federal prosecutors are relying on to prove the case. Although Bantu never came in contact with the cocaine, the taped recorded conversations can still link him to the conspiracy.

As a Miami criminal defense lawyer who defends cocaine trafficking cases throughout Miami and the South Florida area, many lessons can be learned from this arrest. Arrests have occurred for drug trafficking and drug sales on daily basis in Miami and South Florida over the past decade. What happened to the individuals who had previously been arrested? A large number of those previously arrested have agreed to cooperate with federal or state authorities to reduce or cut their sentences. In order to cooperate, may of these individuals become informants. The reduction in their sentence is directly linked to the number of cases they set up for law enforcement. The point is, that even if someone thinks they know who they are dealing with, they may be unaware that they are being set up for an arrest.

A large number of cocaine trafficking cases result from sting operations that occur within warehouses operated by law enforcement. In all cases, these warehouses are wired for sound and video. It is difficult enough to defend trafficking cases because of the manpower and resources provided to drug enforcement details. A case is much more difficult to defend when individuals are captured on audio and video cutting into the cocaine and striking a deal. With that in mind, anyone who endeavors to engage in drug trafficking should aware of who they are dealing with and their surroundings. Of course, the best option is not to become involved because all drug trafficking offenses carry stiff penalties both in state and federal court.

Reggae Star Banton Busted, TBO.com, December 15, 2009.

December 15, 2009

More Miami Medicare Fraud Arrest Made

A Miami resident was arrested by federal authorities as part of a larger law enforcement investigation encompassing 3 states. The agents anticipate making over 30 arrests in Miami, New York and Detroit by the time they are finished. Those arrested or going to be arrested were allegedly involved in a $61 million dollar Medicare fraud scheme. The investigation and subsequent arrests were made by the Medicare Strike Force in conjunction with two federal agencies. The arrests come on the recent advance of those willing to participate in Medicare fraud. As posted in previous articles, curtailing Medicare fraud has become a prime objective of the federal government as they crack down on waste in light of the new healthcare overhaul plans. If anyone ever becomes involved in a healthcare fraud investigation, it is imperative to seek the representation of a Miami criminal lawyer possessing experience in this area of criminal defense.

The reported arrests come one week after the Health and Human Services Department issued a statement indicating that the United States loses about $61 billion a year to Medicare fraud and that Miami is the epicenter of the problem. The federal government has vowed to throw as much money and manpower as is required to eradicate the problem. Other than being charged with Medicare fraud, the individuals arrested will also face charges of racketeering, wire fraud, mail fraud and conspiracy charges. If convicted by plea or trial, multi-year prison sentences are likely to follow. Those who cooperate with the federal government will most likely end up in a better situation than those that choose the alternative.

Those arrested were involved with billing the Medicare program for unordered hospital equipment, unnecessary or unprovided physical therapies, false medical diagnosis such as diabetes and unneeded or unprovided HIV treatments. The scams in Detroit and New York fit the same description as those allegedly perpetrated in Miami. In Detroit, payoffs were made to patients who in exchange provided their Medicare identification numbers to receive expensive medical testing that was never provided or received. In New York, two of individuals arrested allegedly billed Medicare for unnecessary medical equipment.

As the government's involvement in abolishing Medicare fraud continues, more arrests and prosecutions will be effectuated. Have no doubt, Miami is the primary target. If you become involved in a federal or state investigation regarding Medicare fraud, it is imperative to hire a Miami criminal attorney who regularly appears in federal court defend these types of cases. Before speaking to law enforcement authorities, speak to a qualified counsel regarding your situation.

Feds Crackdown on Medicare Fraud in Miami, CBS4.com, December 15, 2009.

December 14, 2009

Former ICE Agent Pleads Guilty to Assisting Cocaine Traffickers

A former Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) entered a guilty plea to several federal offenses. Richard Padilla Cramer will return to court in Miami on February 18, 2010 where he is facing up to 20 years in federal prison. Federal prosecutors alleged that Cramer provided individuals involved in money laundering and cocaine trafficking with database reports from ICE and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) computer systems. He was a former ICE agent assigned to an office in Guadalajara, Mexico. Cramer's Miami criminal lawyer was present by his side when he entered the guilty plea.

Cramer was alleged to have assisted two Mexican nationals accused of money laundering by providing them with database reports taken from ICE and DEA computer systems. In a different case, Cramer allegedly assisted another known money launderer by investigating whether there were any arrest warrants in the system for him. As a result of the information, he was able to leave Miami and return to Mexico without being arrested.

Cramer is also alleged to have sold inside information to those engaged in large scale cocaine trafficking operations. The information provided to the drug traffickers assisted them in determining whether any of their associates were working with federal anti-drug investigative authorities. Initially, Cramer was accused of assisting in the transportation of cocaine from Mexico to Spain, but the charge was later dropped due to insufficient evidence.

According to Cramer's Miami federal criminal defense lawyer, Cramer received no monetary benefit for the information provided to the drug traffickers. Cramer became implicated during the investigation of being looked at by the federal government. His name came to light during several hours of recorded conversations which occurred at a South Florida restaurant. The conversations revealed that the drug traffickers were able to determine if an intercepted shipment of cocaine was linked to one of their own. The DEA was able to located e-mails sent by Cramer to one of the traffickers's e-mail accounts.

If there is a lesson to be learned in this case, anyone involved in a criminal enterprise should be wary of their business associates. Additionally, e-mails and text messages can be obtained easily through the use of search warrants. Law enforcement has access to telephone records and even have the ability to tape record telephone conversations. Any such evidence obtained by law enforcement authorities will be used by the prosecution in the case.

Federal Agent Faces Prison for Tipping Off Traffickers, The Miami Herald, December 14, 2009.

December 10, 2009

High Unemployment Leads to Increased Health Insurance Fraud

Miami medicare fraud cases have skyrocketed alongside the rising unemployment in South Florida and the United States. Miami criminal lawyers have more than enough Medicare fraud cases to keep them busy these days. The federal government have stepped up efforts to fight the ongoing problem especially in light of the current legislation before Congress. The problem is so bad that affordable healthcare and the healthcare reform legislation are both in jeopardy. By its own admission, the federal government's intense fight to stamp out Medicare fraud had met with mixed results. Experts even say that large high-profile are only going to grow because of the new and innovative schemes to defraud that will be seen in the future. If you are being investigated or prosecuted for healthcare fraud, it is imperative to seek a Miami Medicare fraud criminal lawyer with years of experience defending these types of cases.

Many of the Medicare fraud schemes involve identity theft. Identity theft occurs when individuals steal health insurance identification or social security numbers and use this information to obtain healthcare that is not necessary or file false claims altogether. When large groups become involved in this type of healthcare fraud, racketeering (RICO) charges can and will be prosecuted both in state and federal court. People charged with racketeering will receive exceedingly high bonds which may or may not be reduced at a bond hearing. Nebbia requirements usually accompany racketeering charges as well, which require satisfying the prosecution, as well as, the judge, that the proceeds used for the bond do not stem from a criminal enterprise.

In recent news, a Miami clinic for elderly patients was raided by federal law enforcement authorities. They discovered 1,100 medical identification cards that were shared by other clinics and family members. One of those involved in the scheme to defraud pocketed $2.8 million in fraudulent Medicare refunds. Miami is by no means the only city where the fraud is occurring. A New York woman will appear in federal court and is looking at seven years in prison for filing in excess of 50 false claims to her insurance company. Houston and Los Angeles are also hotbeds for this criminal activity.

The South Florida court dockets are well-stocked with Medicare fraud cases. Clinic owners, physician's assistants, receptionists and patients have all been charged in state and federal court. The loss of licenses and businesses are minor problems considering the double digit prison sentences being handed down by courts through the South Florida area. Anyone charged in a healthcare fraud case needs best legal representation with ideal experience in directly handling these types of cases.

Health Insurance Fraud Rising With Surge of Unemployment, exmaxhealth.com, December 7, 2009.

December 9, 2009

Pastor Begins Trial For Miami Fraud Charges

A Miami pastor began his trial this week in an effort to be acquitted of theft and fraud charges. The Reverend Gaston Smith sat with his Miami criminal lawyer as opening statements were presented to the jury. The Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office has charged Smith with stealing in excess of $10,000.00 in grant money intended to be used to help the citizens of Liberty City, one of Miami's poorest communities. The case is another example of the many public corruption cases that have come to light in recent months in Miami.

Prosecutors allege that Smith committed grand theft by misappropriating "seed" money intended to be used for the benefit of the citizens of Liberty City. Some of the money allegedly went to pay a bar bill in Las Vegas. Smith's Miami criminal defense lawyer argued that Smith got tangled up in the public corruption investigation that led to the recent arrest of another local politician, Michelle Spence-Jones. The defense argued that the case had nothing to do with theft, but was the result of bad book keeping.

The criminal jury trail began after two long years with many individuals expressing their support for Smith. Spence-Jones, once a member of Smith's church, is an essential part of the defense. Smith began the non-profit organization at her request and she arranged a $25,000 county grant for the "Friends of MLK". Smith told prosecutors that Spence-Jones demanded $8,000 in return for the favor. The investigation into Smith's alleged crimes began when with many unexplained withdrawals from the organization's account.

During the pendency of the criminal case against Smith, his Miami criminal attorney offered him as a witness in the case against Spence-Jones. Unwilling to use Smith as a witness, the prosecution pushed for a criminal trial. The basis of the alleged grand theft charge against Smith involves 27 ATM transactions and account charges for rental cars, lodging and airfares. All of the charges were allegedly made with the authorization of the organization.

Although the Miami criminal justice system is swamped with drug trafficking, mortgage fraud and medicare fraud cases, public corruption cases are becoming as popular in the media. If a public official becomes ensnared in a criminal investigation and prosecution, it will certainly become a media event and the Public Corruption Unit at the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office will use only the most seasoned prosecutors to prepare the case for trial. Whether they can actually prove their case to a Miami jury is a different question.

Trial Begins for Miami Pastor Accused of Stealing County Funds, The Miami Herald, November 9, 2009.

December 8, 2009

Miami Medicare Fraud Suspected in Diabetes Care

Federal authorities are yet again investigating new cases involving Miami Medicare fraud. A new investigation revealed that Medicare has paid out in excess of 500 million dollars for the care of homebound diabetes patients. Home healthcare agencies billed more than the rest of country combined for diabetic treatments. The federal government is getting better at identifying Medicare fraud cases. If you or someone you know is involved in providing home healthcare for diabetes patients, it may be wise to speak with a Miami criminal lawyer experienced in defending Miami Medicare fraud cases. Early representation can help avoid an arrest or at least to arrange a discussion with a with federal agents and prosecutors should it become necessary.

Investigators are looking into cases where patients were receiving twice a day diabetes treatments who did not require it and cases where people were receiving insulin injections who did not even have diabetes. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services became suspicious when they discovered that Miami bills half of the $1 billion that Medicare paid out for the entire country in 2008. The other red flag that tipped off the federal government was that Miami's percentage of diabetes patients is lower in Miami than other areas of Florida larger elderly populations.

With the healthcare debate raging and the extra money the federal government is spending to investigate fraud, the number of arrests and criminal investigations involving Miami Medicare fraud is likely to escalate. Anyone convicted in a Medicare fraud case is looking at significant prison time. The federal government through U.S. Attorney's Office in Southern District of Florida is trying to make examples of individuals who have allegedly committed Medicare fraud. Early representation by a Miami medicare fraud defense lawyer can mean the difference between a short investigation and a 10 year prison sentence.

Medicare and federal law enforcement authorities believe that owners and managers of home healthcare companies have been paying doctors $100 for each fake diabetes referral. If that is the case, the doctors as well as the clinic owners can be indicted in federal court. Patients accepting bribes, such as, money, groceries and flat screen TVs in exchange for them allowing their Medicare numbers to be used for billing purposes will also be arrested and prosecuted. Another important fact to remember is that if you are contacted you are contacted by a Medicare fraud investigator, do not try to bribe them with money. Two people were arrested last week for offering $5,000 to cover up an investigation.

Fraud Suspected in Miami-Dade Diabetes Case, The Miami Herald, December 8, 2009.

December 7, 2009

Miami Woman Arrested for Marijuana and Cocaine Trafficking

Federal authorities arrested a 59 year old woman on charges of marijuana trafficking and cocaine trafficking. Aurora Ojeda was arrested in Miami and returned to Port St. Lucie to face the aforementioned offenses. Her husband, also a South Florida resident, is still at large, but being sought by law enforcement. It is unclear whether Ojeda will retain counsel in Port St. Lucie or hire a Miami marijuana trafficking lawyer. Miami criminal lawyers often represent individuals charges with marijuana trafficking or operating grow houses up and down the east and west coast of Florida.

As is often the case, a confidential source ("CS") provided a tip to law enforcement regarding the Ojeda's residence. Based on the information provided by the CS, police obtained a search signed by a circuit court judge and raided the home located in Port St. Lucie, Florida. According to reports, the couple moved their marijuana and cocaine operation from Miami to Port St. Lucie. As a result of the search, police seized 20 marijuana plants the size of Christmas trees. The plants weighed about 136 pounds.

Ojeda was arrested for cultivation of marijuana, marijuana trafficking, cocaine trafficking two counts of possession of a controlled substance. The search of the home revealed 46 grams of cocaine, alpazolam and hydrocodone pills. A firearm was also located in the home. The cocaine seized was a trafficking amount. Possession of cocaine between 28 and 200 grams carries a three year minimum mandatory sentence. If the prosecutors file armed trafficking in marijuana or cocaine, Ms. Ojeda may be held without a bond. All armed trafficking offenses are capital offenses which are non-bondable offenses. However, any defendant being held without a bond at the initial bond hearing can request and Arthur Hearing, where a bond can be sought.

Once Mr. Ojeda is apprehended it is far less likely that he receive a bond if in fact armed trafficking charges are filed. A criminal background search revealed that he has previously been convicted of cocaine trafficking. More and more arrests are being made for marijuana trafficking in cities where housing woes are the worst. Cheap and abandoned houses are typically used for 'grow house" operations. These residences are generally used because the homes are irreparably damaged because of the mold created from growing marijuana indoors.

Port St. Lucie Woman Arrested After Grow House Raided, tcpalm.com, December 7, 2009.

December 3, 2009

Miami Mortgage Fraud Task Force Leading the Way

In 2007, the Miami Mortgage Fraud Task Force was established to eradicate the significant mortgage fraud problem. Since its inception the task force has made more than 175 arrests and is currently investigating 780 other cases. Anyone being investigated for mortgage fraud or having been contacted by the task force should seek immediate legal representation from a Miami mortgage fraud lawyer. Only certain Miami criminal attorneys have experience in these matters to effectively defend such a case. It is imperative to hire counsel prior to speaking with mortgage fraud investigators to protect one's rights. Any statements made to law enforcement official will be used in court by the prosecution.

Miami is one of the few locations in South Florida that have established a mortgage fraud task force. Miami has dedicated 24 law enforcement officers specially trained to investigate mortgage fraud. Until recently, the majority of other major metropolitan areas in South Florida such as, Ft. Lauderdale, Palm Beach County, Sarasota and Tampa did not have local offices to accept and investigate mortgage fraud complaints. As a result of the success of the Miami-Dade Police Department, other jurisdictions are coming on board. As the expansion of mortgage fraud tasks forces continue, the number of arrests relating to the crime will certainly expand. The Miami-Dade Task Force has organized training sessions for police officers and prosecutors across the state to get them up to speed.

Mortgage fraud cases are usually very complicated due to the number of documents that are involved. Investigations can be completed sometimes with in a month, but the typical investigation lasts from six to eighteen months. The lengthy criminal investigations stem from the large number of people usually involved in a mortgage fraud ring and the complicated nature of the schemes to defraud. If an individual is arrested for mortgage fraud, typically charges such as organized scheme to defraud, grand theft and racketeering will also be charged in state court. The crimes or wire fraud, mail fraud and racketeering are usual charges fond on a federal court indictment.

Miami-Dade County has taken the crime of mortgage fraud so seriously that it has received the assistance the local and federal government, real estate industry groups and other interested parties. With these additional funds, the task force can be proactive by not only quickly responding to complaints, but by checking through real estate records looking for suspicious deals. In fact, some members of the task force undertake undercover capacities as real estate agents and mortgage brokers in an effort to infiltrate mortgage fraud rings.

In Major Fraud Spot, Agency Sets an Example, HeraldTribune.com, December 1, 2009.

December 2, 2009

Federal Government Finally Charges South Florida Lawyer

Federal prosecutors finally got around to filing charges against former Ft. Lauderdale attorney Scott Rothstein. He appeared in a crowded Broward federal courtroom to finally face charges for operating a $1.2 billion "Ponzi" scheme. Rothstein was present with his well-know Ft. Lauderdale and Miami criminal lawyer when he entered a not guilty plea. Rothstein was charged by information with five felony counts including wire fraud and racketeering. He appeared before a U.S. magistrate for his initial appearance and bond hearing. Rothstein was held without bail for being a flight risk. Anyone being charged for operating a scheme to defraud or "Ponzi" scheme should immediately retain a Miami criminal fraud lawyer to defend the case.

Rothstein is alleged to have orchestrated one of the largest frauds in the history of South Florida and Miami. Federal prosecutors believe that Rothstein created fictitious settlements and sold them off to various investors. The purported settlements related to employment claims, such as sexual harassment and other labor law issues. He would pay old investors with new investor funds. Rothstein allegedly spend his ill-gotten gains on purchases of expensive homes, automobiles and jewelry. He also made large contributions t he Democratic and Republican parties. Despite the fact that Rothstein is a first time offender, the magnitude of the fraud subjects him to a life sentence.

The current suspicion is that Rothstein is attempting to cooperate with federal law enforcement authorities and prosecutors in an attempt to limit his exposure. Several facts lead to this conclusion. Rothstein was charged by information rather than by an indictment. Anyone facing federal charges is entitled to have a grand jury hear the evidence and submit an indictment to the trial court. Also, Rothstein is facing life in prison. Depending on the strength of the case, Rothman may have to enter a guilty plea and provide information against his co-conspirators. The entry of a guilty will allow the U.S. district judge to deviate from the federal sentencing guidelines.

In addition to putting Rothstein behind bars, prosecutors have also filed asset forfeiture documents seeking to claim millions of the dollars worth of real estate, expensive automobiles and jewelry, and cash. Investors hope the forfeited assets will help them reclaim their investments. The acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida was quoted as saying, "This case is a glaring example of greed run amok. He sought to buy power at the expensive of his clients and instead bought himself a lengthy prison sentence." Only time will tell what will happen to Rothstein, but it appears as if a lengthy prison sentence is in the cards.

Lawyer's Alleged Fraud a Case of 'Greed Run Amok', Law.com, December 2, 2009.

December 1, 2009

Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer Arrested in Oxycodone Sting

Miami and the South Florida area have always been a haven for illegal narcotics activity and drugs. As an experienced Miami criminal lawyer, it has become apparent that the narcotics trade from simple possession to trafficking has permeated our community. The media is saturated with cases involving cocaine trafficking, marijuana trafficking, heroine trafficking and oyxcodone trafficking. The media rarely covers the simple drug possession or drug sale cases. If you or someone you know is being investigated for a drug related offense, from simple drug possession to drug trafficking, it is imperative to speak with a Miami criminal attorney with vast experience is defending these types of cases.

Seeking the advice of a lawyer who handles civil maters rather than a Miami drug trafficking criminal lawyer can mean the difference in beating your case or spending a lengthy time in jail or prison. Always remember, it is imperative that a person being investigated for a drug related offense to limit their cooperation with the police. Two of the most important rules to remember are (1) Never consent to the search of your home, car, boat or person - make law enforcement get a warrant and seek the advice of a Miami drug offense criminal lawyer as soon as possible; and (2) Never make any statements to the police either spontaneously or in response to specific questions - when the police explain that you have a right to speak with a lawyer, invoke that right.

The other thing any person involved in the narcotics trade in Miami should know is that others have already been arrested for cocaine and oxycodone trafficking. These individuals are out to save their own skin. Many times, the only way this goal can be accomplished is by working as a confidential informant or "CI". A CI is usually an individual that has already been arrested in some sort of narcotics transaction. In an effort to avoid prison or jail time, including long minimum mandatory prison sentences, the CI will enter a contract with law enforcement and the local state or federal prosecutors office. The CI has been told that his sentence will be cut by setting up drug transactions. As a Miami cocaine trafficking lawyer, numerous clients have passed through these doors having been set up by a friend or acquaintance. In a nutshell, you never who will set you up to be arrested.

The aforementioned information has been provided in response to a recent Miami oxycodone arrest. The interesting part of the story is that a Miami criminal defense lawyer working as an assistant public defender sold oxycodone to an undercover detective from his North Miami Beach home. He allegedly sold 45 oxycodone tablets to law enforcement officials in exchange for $700.00. He attended his bond hearing and was released in a $25,000.00 bond. It just goes to show, that anyone can become ensnared in a narcotics transaction.

Miami Public Defender Charged in Oxycodone Case, The Miami Herald.com, November 25, 2009.