January 2010 Archives

January 29, 2010

Feds Progress Against Medicare Fraud Stalling

A Justice Department released a report earlier this week explaining that the number of people being arrested and charged for Medicare fraud has barely increased over the past two years. Despite the federal government's promise to fight healthcare fraud, little progress is being made according to the report. That fact is hard to believe because at least once a week local papers write articles describing the latest Miami Medicare fraud cases. The report indicated that federal prosecutors indicted 803 individuals with Medicare fraud this year. Federal authorities are disturbed that the prosecution rate has only increased 2% since 2007, the year the Medicare strike forces began to take shape. The numbers may be skewed because the report does not include the number investigations that are pending this year, as compared with 2007.

Again, politics is entering the picture in the battle against health care fraud. Democrats are trying to curb the fraud and use the benefits to assist in paying for the government run healthcare plan. The politicians want to save the tax payers from the $60 billion a year fraud and use the money to support the new plan. Obama's administration gathered experts in Washington, D.C. to get ideas prevent the extensive losses. Current safeguards are mostly limited to recovering losses as a result of fraud, and not preventing the fraud before it happens. Only the largest of Medicare fraud cases are often prosecuted in federal court. A federal prosecutor was quoted as saying, "While we can't prosecute our way out of health care fraud problem, we are making sure that we're using innovative ideas like the Medicare fraud strike forces to detect and prosecute healthcare fraud."

Based on the large number of arrests and prosecutions in Miami, the strike forces appear to have been working, at least in South Florida. The Justice Department set up a team of an investigators and prosecutors to combat the ongoing the ongoing problem. Based on the apparent success in Miami, the federal government set up strike forces in six other cities including Baton Rouge, New York and Tampa. Opponents of the strike forces are using the report in several ways. Opponents of Obama's plan routinely say that if the current administration cannot clean up the health care fraud, how can they possibly think they can create a health care system that will work.

Initially, the number of prosecutions in fraud cases jumped %35, but the numbers have remained stagnant since that time. However, the statistics do not take into consideration if the number of pending investigations have increased significantly during the same time frame. With the focus on these types of fraud offenses, prosecutors will seek, and the judges will hand down severe sentences for those convicted of health care fraud. Anyone being investigated for or having been arrested for their involvement in a Medicare fraud case should seek assistance from a Miami criminal defense attorney defending these types of cases in federal court.

Little Progress Seen Against Health Insurance Fraud, USA Today, January 28, 2010.

January 28, 2010

Ft. Lauderdale Lawyer Pleads Guilty in Federal Court

The day that South Florida has been waiting for finally came. Infamous Broward County lawyer Scott Rothstein entered a guilty plea in federal court for operating a massive 'Ponzi" scheme. Rothstein appeared before a United States District Judge and pled guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud and wire fraud. As part of his plea agreement, he agreed to an asset forfeiture of $1.2 billion, 24 pieces of real estate, expensive car, boats, jewelry and bank accounts. Rothstein appeared unshaken as he entered the guilty plea with the assistance of his Miami criminal attorney.

Rothstein was accused of operated a large scheme to defraud investors. In some instances, he received money from investors promising that the money would be lent to clients in the form of bridge loans that would yield a hefty return. Other investors gave money to Rothstein thinking they were buying civil case settlements. The investors were told that they would purchase the settlements at a discount to be repaid over time as at full face value. In both cases, the investments never existed and money invested from new investors was paid to older investors. The four year fraud used numerous bank accounts to facilitate the complex money laundering scheme.

Rothstein is scheduled to appear back in federal court on May 6th for his sentencing hearing. Based on the charges he pled guilty to, he is facing up to 100 years in prison. Most experts believe his sentence will range from 20 to 30 years. According to the special agent in charge of the investigation, "Scott Rothstein used a classic approach to mislead investors - an ostentatious lifestyle, personality and guarantees of sky-high returns-all red flags in the world of Ponzi schemes." Investors became suspicious late last year when they stopped receiving scheduled returns on their investments. Panic followed, which led to the inevitable dissolution of his 70 person law firm in Ft. Lauderdale.

Now that Rothstein has entered a guilty plea, there is no doubt that federal law enforcement agencies and prosecutors will target others purportedly involved in the scheme. Court documents revealed that other members of the now disbanded law firm have criminal culpability for their involvement with Rothstein. Many of those suspected of being involved have retained Broward and Miami criminal attorneys should the hammer fall. Among those being looked at by investigators include Stuart Rosenfeldt and Russell Adler, Rothstein's former law partners and David Boden, Rothstein's former chief counsel. Anyone indicted in the case will face the similar charges of money laundering, wire fraud and mail fraud. If sentences are imposed against any of these individuals, they are not likely to exceed that Rothstein receives in May in light of the fact that he appears to be the mastermind behind the scheme.

Fort Lauderdale Attorney Pleads Guilty in Billion Dollar Ponzi Scheme, PR Newswire, January 27, 2010.

January 27, 2010

Former Member of Cali Cartel Sentenced

A notorious member of the Cali cocaine trafficking cartel was sentenced in a Miami federal court to 200 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release. Jorge Solano was indicted and sentenced for cocaine trafficking, conspiracy to traffic in cocaine and money laundering as a result of large scale investigation conducted by the U.S. immigration and Customs and Enforcement (ICE) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Solano was considered to be involved in moving approximately 50,000 kilograms of cocaine into Miami between 1988 and 1991. During this time, he was considered to be the major supplier to Miami cocaine trafficking rings. Solano was represented by a Miami defense criminal lawyer with vast experience in defending federal Miami cocaine trafficking cases.

The Cali cocaine trafficking cartel was considered to be the largest distributer of cocaine throughout the United States and the world during the 1980's and 1990's. From 1988 to 1991, Solano was the highest ranking cartel member operating in Miami and was in charge of coordinating cocaine imports to Miami from Venezuela. The cartel would import large quantities of cocaine by ships carrying the cocaine hidden in drums of asphalt and concrete posts. In 1991, customs officials with the assistance of the United States Coast Guard discovered one of the cocaine laden ships. Kilograms of cocaine were discovered in the center of concrete posts. Federal authorities executed a search warrant at several warehouses operated by the Cali cartel. With the authorities closing in, Solano fled to Cali, Columbia in an effort to evade arrest and prosecution. Solano remained fugitive for seventeen years.

In 2008, Solano was still engaged in the business of cocaine trafficking. He was arrested in Togo, Africa. Togolese authorities arrested Solano and reported the bust to federal authorities in the United States. As part of an extradition pact between the governments, Solano was returned to the United States to face prosecution. Even with the disbanding of the Cali and Medellin cartels, Miami remains a key hub in receiving cocaine from South America. Despite several decades of our government's fight against the importation of drugs, the inflow of cocaine has not been dramatically reduced.

Anyone arrested for cocaine trafficking faces severe penalties, both in state and federal court. Cocaine trafficking offense all carry mandatory prison time in state and federal court. The amount of time an individual faces behind bars depend on the amount involved in the alleged trafficking. In federal court, cocaine traffickers face a minimum prison sentence of 10 years. The number can be reduced if a defendant enters a plea and has no previous criminal record. A sentence can be further reduced if a defendant decides to cooperate with federal investigators and prosecutors. Before entering into a plea to a cocaine trafficking case, it is imperative to hire an experienced attorney to review the evidence, as a plea may not be in a client's best interest. Depending on the evidence, a person charged in a cocaine trafficking case may choose to go to trial, win and avoid being incarcerated altogether.

Former Fugitive Cali Cartel Member Sentenced to More than Sixteen Years in Prison, Ethiopian Review, January 22, 2010.

January 26, 2010

Broward Lawyer Provides Economic Windfall for Other South Florida Lawyers

A $1.2 billion "Pozni Scheme" created and operated by a Ft. Lauderdale lawyer has caused significant incomes for all types of South Florida lawyers. Hundreds of former employees, investors and creditors have lost jobs and millions of dollars as a result of the alleged massive scheme to defraud conceived by Scott Rothstein. As others suffer, various types of South Florida lawyers are earning large sums of money due to their involvement in all aspects of the case. Experts have determined that different types of lawyers from Miami criminal lawyers, Broward banking and insurance attorneys, as well as, lawyers working for two law firms assisting the receiver will make in excess of $15 million for their involvement in the case. The criminal defense lawyer representing Rothstein is under the impression that he will enter a guilty plea in federal court later this week.

The lawyer set to earn the most money for his involvement in the case is Miami-Dade Senior Judge Herb Stettin who was appointed to act as the receiver in the case by a Broward County judge. Stettin is responsible for receiving and distributing all of the items seized by federal authorities in asset forfeiture actions. Stettin is expected to make millions as a result of the receivership according to experts cited by the Miami Herald. The authorities have seized millions of dollars in assets from Rothstein's estate including expensive sports cars, mansions, jewelry and other assets belonging to his former seventy member Ft. Lauderdale law firm. Lawyers from investors, creditors and the like are lining up to collect the proceeds from these assets.

Rothstein is currently charged by indictment for mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering and is facing dozens of years in federal prison. Rothstein has not directly spoken with federal investigators or prosecutors working on the case. His criminal attorney has acted as an intermediary in any communications directed toward the authorities. Rothstein is set to enter a change of plea on January 27, 2009. Apparently, a plea agreement has been reached because the hearing date has not been postponed. The terms of the agreement will be released when the plea is taken by the federal judge.

Once Rothstein enters a guilty plea, a sentencing date will be set in three or four months. During that time, a federal probation officer will compile a pre-sentence investigation which will include a background history of the defendant. Additionally, the probation department will determine the potential sentence using the federal sentencing guidelines. The pre-sentence investigation report will be provided the judge, defense counsel and the prosecution. Rothstein's defense team and federal prosecutors will have the opportunity to file objections prior to the sentencing hearing in federal court. The word on the street is that Rothstein will probably receive a twenty year prison sentence. The sentence is along the lines the punishment doled out to Mark Dreier, the New York lawyer, who sold false investment notes and stole from clients. The biggest problem Rothstein faces other than the amount of money involved in the the scheme to defraud, is the fact that evidence apparently exists that will be submitted to the court that Rothstein forged judges signatures and fraudulently created fake civil court settlements and sold them to investors.

Scott Rothstein Case Seen as Economic Boon for Lawyers, The Miami Herald, January 27, 2010.

January 25, 2010

Fugitives from Law Enforcement Flock to Miami and South Florida

Federal law enforcement authorities recently released a report indicating that the majority of fugitives are eventually captured in Miami and the South Florida area. The United States Marshal's Office have a wide variety of responsibilities including guarding federal courthouses, overseeing the federal witness protection program and selling of seized assets forfeited by criminals. The Marshals spend countless man-hours capturing would be fugitives. In 2008, the marshals were responsible for the capture of 36,000 federal fugitives and approximately 73,000 local and state fugitives. More than half of those were captured in Miami and South Florida. Supervisory Deputy Barry Golden gave the following explanation for the skewed numbers. "Part of it is the weather. But also, South Florida is a multi-national, multi-racial, multi-lingual, is there anyone who really stands out; not really, it is easy to blend in."

As a result of the large number of fugitives being captured in Miami and South Florida, many Miami criminal lawyers have garnered extensive expertise in extradition matters. If a federal fugitive is captured in South Florida, that individual will be housed in the Miami Federal Detention Center until the federal court with jurisdiction completes the extradition process returning the fugitive to the location where he or she will face charges. If the fugitive has local or state charges pending, the defendant will be housed at the Miami-Dade County Jail until the jurisdiction from where the offense originated decides whether or not they wish to spend funds and manpower to pick-up and deliver the fugitive. Other cases involving fugitives involve military law. Active duty soldiers from the Army, Navy. Air Force or Marines are regularly wanted for the charges of Absent Without Leave (AWOL) or Desertion. Once a military unit declares a soldier AWOL, an arrest warrant will soon there after issue. Any service member picked up on this type of warrant is typically held in local custody until picked up by the military. As a Miami military lawyer, is has become evident that the current state of our military forces has caused an increased number of AWOL and desertion charges.

Anyone arrested on out-of-state or military warrant will be taken to the Miami-Dade County Jail and will appear at a bond hearing the following day. The judge will review the jail card and determine that a hold from a foreign jurisdiction exists. The judge will place a hold on the file with a no bond hold. The jail card will reflect that the fugitive is to be held until XYZ county or the military releases the hold. Several scenarios can take place. If a fugitive waives extradition, the local, state or military authorities have approximately two weeks to come to Miami and pick up the fugitive. The out-of-state jurisdictional authorities can ask for an extension of time which will be granted by the court. Therefore, the fugitive may be held up to 30 days in jail without a bond. If the 30 days passes, the fugitive will most likely be released barring extraordinary circumstances.

If you or a loved one is being held with a bond in the Dade County Jail on an out of jurisdiction case, contact a Miami extradition lawyer. A Miami criminal attorney experienced in extradition matters may be able to provide assistance. Depending on the severity of the offense, an out of state jurisdiction may agree to set a bond in lieu of spending time and money on retrieving a fugitive. A lawyer will contact the prosecutor's office in the jurisdiction where the offense is alleged to have occurred and negotiate setting a bond. Once the prosecutor agrees to the bond, that information will be transferred to Miami where the jail card will be amended to reflect the bond. In military case, a well-versed Miami military lawyer will contact the appropriate military installation AWOL apprehension unit and have them agree to the release of hold. The armed service will also provide an airline ticket to the installation of their choice. Most of the time, service members will be required to return to the unit from where they last reported for duty. Even if a fugitive is being held without a bond, there are solutions to the problem which will not require them to remain in custody for up to a month.

Lasso many in South Florida, The Palm Beach Post, January 21, 2010.

January 21, 2010

Miami-Dade County Amends Local Sex Offender Laws

Miami-Dade County commissioners voted to amend local sex offender laws in an effort to alleviate the problems that are leaving sex offenders with no place to live with the exception of under bridges. The new ordinance will supercede portions of the old ordinance by loosening some portions of the local laws. Commissioners unanimously voted to create one standard across the entire county rather than the previously existing multiple laws handed down separately from various municipalities.

Although the standards have been loosened, Miami-Dade County made the changes maintaining a balance between the rights those convicted of sex offense such as sexual battery and lewd and lascivious conduct, and children who need protection from these offenders. Despite the changes, Miami criminal lawyers must make their clients aware of which sex offenses carry these restrictive bans before allowing their clients to enter into plea agreements with the state attorney's office. It is imperative that a Miami sex offense criminal lawyer not only plea bargain on behalf of their clients, but should also make charge bargaining a priority in an effort to avoid these restrictions.

The new Miami-Dade County ordinance repeals at least 24 laws that had previously enacted by separate municipalities. The ordinance create more workable exclusion zones for those convicted of certain sexual offenses such as sexual assault, sexual battery, lewd and lascivious conduct, statutory rape and child sex abuse. The new law maintains the 2,500-foot rule prohibiting certain sex offenders from living that close to schools. However, a new 1,000-foot rule now exists prohibiting certain sex offenders from living that distance from where children congregate. Civil libertarians applaud the new rule. However they still hold the opinion that any restrictions force many of the sexual offenders underground, thus making it more difficult for law enforcement to monitor them.

Others disagree with the change in the law. Miami Beach County Attorney, Jose Smith, intends to challenge the new law and was quoted as saying, "I haven't been satisfied that the county has the authority to do this and that the new law waters down their more strict city-wide policies." Miami Beach along with several other municipalities will challenge the new ordinance. Many local governments had previously imposed the 2,500 foot ban as a result of the rape and murder of nine-year old Jessica Lunsford in 2005. Others predict every municipality will adopt Miami-Dade Counties policies by the end of the year. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has become involved in the controversy and previously filed suit against Miami-Dade over its 2,500 foot rule. The organization has gone on record that the new ordinance is a step in the right direction, but argue for more changes in the law.

Miami-Dade OK's New Sex Offender Law, The Miami Herald, January 21, 2010.

January 20, 2010

Bank Robberies Across Nation Decline Despite Recession

In past recessions, statistics show that the number of bank robberies generally increase with every downturn in the economy. However, the latest FBI report indicates that the number of bank robberies committed across the United States decreased 20% last year to a level not seen in at least a decade. The statistic is surprising in light the deepest recession since the "Great Depression" which has caused the unemployment rate to rise. Banks and law enforcement agencies expected the levels of robberies to increase as people became more desperate to obtain money. Even in the hardest hit cities from the economy such as Miami, Los Angeles and Detroit have also seen the steady decline.

According to statistics supplied by the FBI, only 5,500 bank robberies occurred in 2009, which is down approximately 18% from the previous year. U.S. Department of Justice records indicate that the number of indictments handed down in federal court for bank robbery charges reached a 10 year low. Law enforcement authorities believe that the new tactics used by law enforcement such as tracking offenders by satellite are responsible for the decrease in the violent crime. "With the economy, we expected an increase, but we have not seen robberies in which the motive was that a person got laid off and needed the money," said Brad Bryant, head of the FBI's violent crime unit. Most of the individuals caught up in bank robberies are motivated by drug abuse or gambling debts, with limited ties to being unemployed.

Miami banks have implemented a sophisticated measure in an effort to catch bank robbers. Banks give robbers cash that has a global positioning system "GPS" tracking device which allows law enforcement to track the robbers with a lap top computers from their police vehicles. In Arizona, billboards post high-quality photographs of perpetrators within minutes of the commission of a bank robbery. Law enforcement credits these new tools with reducing the number of bank robberies.

One wonders if the technological advances have led to the decrease or the new laws that the State of Florida enacted regarding gun charges. The State of Florida and Miami-Dade County have spent countless dollars and man hours educating the public regrading the 10-20-Life laws implemented earlier in the decade. Anyone committing a crime in possession of a firearm is subject to a mandatory prison sentence of 10 years. Any committing a crime and discharging a firearm in the commission of a crime is subject to a mandatory prison sentence of 20 years. Anyone discharging a firearm where someone is actually shot in the commission of an offense faces up to life in prison. Despite the harsh penalties, a skilled Miami criminal attorney is able on many occasions to have the mandatory sentences waived. However, offense committed with firearms generally score high under the Florida Sentencing Guidelines which still subject violent offenders to long prison sentences.

Despite Recession, Bank Robberies Dropped in 2009, USA Today, January 19, 2010.

January 19, 2010

Miami Medicare Fraud Fugitive Apprehended in Mexico

The federal government appears to be ready, willing and able to leave no stone unturned in an effort to stamp out Medicare fraud. A South Florida resident wanted by federal authorities for his involvement in a Miami Medicare fraud ring was apprehended in Cancun, Mexico. Jose Luis Perez was extradited from Mexico to Miami and indicted for his involvement in a $179 healthcare scheme to defraud. Extradition from Mexico to the United States is not difficult to accomplish by the federal authorities due to the fact that an extradition treaty exists between the two countries. Extradition matters can be difficult and convoluted depending on the arresting country. Extradition matters should only be handled by experienced Miami criminal lawyers.

Federal investigators received information, probably from a co-defendant who entered a plea agreement to receive a sentence reduction, who in turn provided the information to Mexico's Immigration Service. Mexican authorities passed on the tip to the FBI's legal department in Mexico City. The FBI confirmed the fugitive's identity who was then picked up in Cancun by Mexican law enforcement authorities. Perez was extradited to Miami and is scheduled to appear at his initial appearance this week in federal court. Federal prosecutors will no doubt seek pre-trial detention at his bond hearing in that Perez is now without question, a flight risk.

In recent months, many individuals implicated in Miami Medicare fraud cases have fled the United States in an effort to avoid prosecution. About 60 individuals have fled the jurisdiction and sought refuge in Cuba, Mexico and other Latin American countries after allegedly bilking the federal health care program out of hundreds of millions of dollars. Approximately eight Medicare fraud suspects have been apprehended attempting to re-enter the United States at Miami International Airport. The lesson to be learned here is if you are under investigation for Medicare fraud, fleeing the jurisdiction may not absolve you from prosecution. Prior to leaving the jurisdiction, anyone under investigation for this type of offense should retain the services of a Miami criminal attorney experienced in defending Miami Medicare fraud cases to see if there is a viable defense to their case.

Perez was indicted for operating 21 fraudulent medical supply companies in and around the Miami area. He allegedly worked in concert with his co-defendant Reinaldo Guerra. The clinics and medical supply stores were run by straw owners, but federal prosecutors allege that Perez and Guerra reaped all of the monetary benefits. Perez and Guerra are alleged to have received $51 million from Medicare between 2002 and 2004 for medical equipment, such as artificial limbs, that no one ever needed or received. Guerra entered a guilty plea in federal court and was sentenced to 14 years in prison. If Perez enters a guilty plea, he will more than likely receive the same sentence as Guerra.

Fugitive Caught in Cancun, The Miami Herald, January 19, 2010.

January 18, 2010

Marijuana Trafficking Arrests Increase In Central Florida

The efforts of the Miami-Dade Police Department's narcotics investigation units have detected and shut down numerous Miami marijuana trafficking rings over the past several months. Dozens of Miami marijuana grow houses have been busted as a result of the increased efforts of local law enforcement. As a result of their efforts, residents of Miami are make the journey north to cultivate marijuana in what they believe is a safer environment, free from detection. Miami criminal lawyers represent defendants up and down the east coast of Florida and central Florida in an effort to keep their clients from serving significant prison times. Mandatory prison sentences attach to those arrested and convicted of marijuana trafficking.

As the marijuana trade moves north, so do the number of arrests in the counties north of Miami. Many times marijuana posession arrests in Miami gives leads to other grow house operations that exist north of Miami-Dade County. Recently, Miami-Dade narcotics detectives provided information to the Citrus County Sheriff's Department regarding a large marijuana trafficking ring operating Hernando, Florida. The department issued two search warrants on private residences and made three arrests. Two sophisticated grow house operation were discovered that were in the process of cultivating hundreds of high quality marijuana plants.

Two Hispanic males and one Hispanic female were arrested and charged with trafficking in cannabis, conspiracy to traffic in cannabis and leasing or renting a structure with the intent of cultivating a controlled substance. All three defendants attended their initial bond hearing and were held without bail. It is not clear whether the co-defendants will seek local counsel or retain experienced Miami marijuana trafficking lawyers to defend their interests. Eventually, the co-defendant's will most likely receive a bond, unless of course firearms were present on the premises. If an individual operates a grow house and possesses firearms on the premises, the charge of armed trafficking in marijuana will likely follow which is non-bondable offense.

If someone is charged with a non-bondable offense in the State of Florida, relief can be sought at an Arthur Hearing. Depending on the jurisdiction, bonds can usually be obtained at such a hearing depending on the offense charged, an individual's prior criminal record and that person's ties to the community. The prosecution must first prove that the offense was committed by a particular person with the standard of proof being proof evident, presumption great. It is a higher standard than beyond a reasonable doubt. After a mini-trial, if the prosecution does not meet their burden, the trial court judge can set a bond. If the prosecution does meet its burden, the trial judge can still issue a bond depending on whether a person is a danger to the community or a risk of flight. If neither is the case, a bond will most likely be set. However, prior to appearing at an Arthur Hearing, most experienced Miami criminal defense attorneys will attempt to stipulate to a bond with the prosecutor. An agreement will take the judge out of the game, especially in conservative jurisdictions.

Sheriff's Office Busts Two Hernando Grow Houses, Citrus Daily, January 18, 2010.

January 14, 2010

State Attorney's Office Targeting Miami Workers' Compensation Fraud

The Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office has decided to wage another war against fraud in the community. The office has recently ramped up efforts to investigate and prosecute Miami workers' compensation fraud. The most frequent type of workers' compensation fraud commonly involve workers faking injuries and receiving benefits from the State of Florida. The State Attorney's Office created the pilot program which not only investigates and prosecutes employees faking injury, but also businesses that violate state law by failing to pay the required insurance premiums. An upswing in worker's compensation crimes will lead to more defense work for Miami criminal defense lawyers.

Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle issued the following statement regarding the pilot program, "With the economic situation deteriorating, people are finding all kinds of way to get quick money, but nothing is slipping through the cracks. These cases are being intensely investigated and prosecuted." The State of Florida Division of Insurance Fraud has issued a grant to Miami-Dade County in the amount of $136,000.00 to fund the program. Miami is currently the only county to have been granted state funds to prosecute workers' compensation fraud. Broward County prosecutes similar cases, but they are handled by the white collar crimes unit.

During the last fiscal year, statewide prosecutions for workers' compensation fraud led to 532 criminal convictions, 20 of which were in Miami-Dade and 13 in Broward County. Restitution awarded back to the State of Florida exceeded $34 million. Department of Insurance and worker's compensation investigators with the assistance of the state attorney's office hopes to double the number of arrests this year. While worker's compensation fraud is a felony offense, the punishments in the past were not very onerous if the amount of the fraud was limited in the amount of monetary loss. The majority of worker's compensation violators were first time offenders and were able to avail themselves of the pre-trial diversion program, if prosecutors could meet their standard of proof. As an experienced Miami criminal lawyer, it is apparent that nominal punishments may no longer be in the cards. The same thing happened in other insurance fraud cases, such as in staged automobile accidents.

Before staged accidents became popular, first time offenders were generally looking at pre-trial diversion. Now, only cooperating witnesses involved in staged accidents will be permitted to enroll in the program. Workers' compensation cases will probably be handled in the same way, as the same section in the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office handles all insurance fraud cases. Another point that needs to be understood is that the Department of Insurance Fraud has recently been unforgiving in the handling of fraud cases. They know that if cases are prosecuted to the fullest, they may lose state funding. If you are contacted regarding a Miami workers' compensation fraud investigation, contact an experienced Miami criminal lawyer before speaking to law enforcement investigators.

Workers' Comp Fraud Targeted, The Miami Herald, January 14, 2010.

January 13, 2010

Miami Resident Enters Guilty Plea in Medicare Fraud Case

A South Florida resident appeared in federal court and entered a guilty plea in a Medicare fraud case. Ingrid Mazorra plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit Medicare fraud. The indictment alleges that Mazorra, in 2006, assisted in the operation of medical clinic that billed for fraudulent infusions. The clinic she operated was located in Livonia, Michigan and operated under the title Xpress Center, Inc. After her arrest in Miami, she agreed to have her case transferred to the United States District Court in the Southern District of Florida. What is unusual about the case is that the defendant' case was transferred to Miami. Mazorra's Miami criminal lawyer appeared on her behalf at the change of plea.

After Mazorra entered her plea of guilty, she admitted in open court to being involved in the health care scheme to defraud. She also admitted that her clinic billed Medicare for unnecessary medical services and equipment or billed for services and equipment that was never provided. The clinic recruited patients to attend the clinic in exchange for cash payments. In exchange for the cash payment, fraudulent patients would visit the clinic and fill out Medicare paperwork indicating that they had received the treatment and/or medical supplies. On some occasions kickbacks were payed, not in cash, but in the form of prescriptions for narcotic drugs. Mazorra admitted to billing Medicare in excess of $2.3 million tot he federal healthcare program with Medicare actually paying $1.8 million in claims.

The investigation into Xpress Center, Inc. was conducted by the Detroit office of the FBI and Health and Human Services. The case was brought to federal prosecutors from the Medicare Fraud Strike Forces which is now operating in full force in Miami, Los Angeles, Detroit, Houston, Brooklyn, Tampa and baton Rouge. The strike force has successfully obtained indictments against more than 460 individuals and organization responsible for bilking the federal healthcare system out of more than $1 billion. The federal government is trying to make good on its promise to derail the systemic Medicare fraud problem in the United States.

The federal government is continuing the ongoing battle against individuals committing fraud against the federal health care system. 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.

Clinic Manager Pleads Guilty in Medicare Fraud Scheme, PR Newswire, January 12, 2010.

January 12, 2010

Rental Properties in South Florida Used as Marijuana Grow Houses

Several property owners from Miami and South Florida have moved on to greener pastures in states like Colorado and North Carolina. One thing they have in common is that they leave their family homes in the care of real estate agents and property managers and sleep well at night. That is until they are contacted by the property managers or law enforcement who break the bad news to them. Not only was your house used to grow marijuana, but your renters turned who turned your home into a marijuana trafficking den caused several thousands of dollars in damage. It has been become more prevalent over recent years for Miami residents to head north, rent a home, and began a marijuana trafficking operation. Miami criminal lawyers follow their clients north and represent them in towns, such as Port St. Lucie, Ft. Pierce, Satellite Beach and points north and west of those locations.

Anyone considering moving north to begin a marijuana grow house operation should keep many things in mind. First, operating a grow house will certainly always carry a mandatory minimum sentence if the amount of the crop amounts to trafficking. Anyone caught with in excess of 25 pounds or marijuana or more than 300 plants is subject to a three year mandatory sentence. Anyone caught with in excess 2000 pounds of marijuana or 2000 plants faces a seven year mandatory prison sentence. Finally, anyone caught with in excess of 10,000 pounds or marijuana or 10,000 plants is subject to a fifteen year mandatory sentence. While many Miami criminal attorneys are successful in defending marijuana trafficking cases in Miami-Dade County, the task becomes more difficult the further the north the case is heard.

There are several reason why defending marijuana trafficking cases become more difficult the further north one travels in the State of Florida. First, Miami-Dade County is suffocated with criminal cases including marijuana trafficking. Prosecutors at the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office are overwhelmed and marijuana is not considered the crime of century. However, further north up Florida's coast and in Central Florida, prosecutors do not carry the same case loads and can focus more attention to their marijuana trafficking cases. Secondly, rural jurisdictions do not take kindly to Miami residents traveling to their quaint little town and starting up marijuana grow house operations. Judges and prosecutors alike will try to make examples of these individuals in an effort to curb the problem from escalating.

The courts systems in these small Florida jurisdictions are presided over by judges who are elected by the general populous. Destruction of residents homes caused by pot growing operations, if not handled properly by the courts, could cost a judge an election. Residents homes are destroyed when they are converted to a marijuana grow houses. Ceilings are torn down and foundations uprooted to create the hydroponic garden. Thousands of dollars in damage is caused which is sometimes not covered by insurance. South Florida residents not only face stiff penalties for marijuana trafficking, but may have difficulty posting bail after their initial bond hearing if the prosecutor seeks an increased bond which is granted by the judge.

Renters Turn Brevard Homes into Pot Farms, Florida Today, January 11, 2010.

January 11, 2010

Ex-FOREX Trader Enters Not Guilty Plea in South Florida Federal Court

In Tampa, Florida, ex-FOREX trader, Beau Diamond, now armed with a new legal team entered a not guilty plea to charges surrounding a $38 million "Ponzi" scheme. Diamond had been previously represented by a well-known Miami criminal lawyer, a federal public defender and a Tampa criminal lawyer before retaining a law firm out of Milwaukee. The federal court magistrate set the trial to beginning March 1, 2010. Diamond's new counsel complained of the short setting stating, "We've got $38 million in financial transactions, and 222 witnesses, all of whom we need to interview."The magistrate told the lawyer to take it up with the federal judge presiding over the case.

Diamond has been detained since his arrest on September 1, 2009. Although, Diamond has sought bail at two previous bond hearings, both requests have been denied. Diamond's new lawyer did not immediately request bail to be set, but reserved his right to appear at a bond hearing on a future date. Diamond's lawyer has many years of federal trial experience and has represented the likes Wesley Snipes and the creator of Girls Gone Wild, both charged with tax evasion.

Federal prosecutors have alleged that Diamond ran a $38 million "Ponzi" scheme to defraud under the guise of a currency trading investment club. Although some of money was actually invested, others alleged that the majority of the funds wee used to pay for his lavish lifestyle. Court records reveal that Diamond promised his investors a 2.5 to 5 percent monthly return on their investment. The indictment alleges that Diamond sought out new investors to make the interest payment to older investors. Some of the counts allege that Diamond transferred money out of bank accounts to pay for his automobile, condominium and trips to Las Vega and Costa Rica.

Diamond is currently facing 18 criminal counts. The charges include wire fraud, mail fraud, illegal money transactions and transportation of stolen property. If Diamond actually opts to go to trial, he is facing between 10 to 20 years for each count charged by federal prosecutors. Previously, it was believed that Diamond and the Tampa criminal lawyer were in negotiations to work out a plea deal. The terms of the deal have not been made public. Apparently, the plea deal offered by the government carried significant prison time because negotiations broke down and Diamond hired his new criminal defense team. Based on the allegations, significant losses and number of witnesses, a plea deal appears imminent. Only time will tell. However, if Diamond is going to try to save himself from significant incarceration he may have to provide information to federal investigators regarding co-conspirators.

Sarasota's beau Diamond Pleads Not Guilty; Trial Is Set, Herald Tribune, December 8, 2010.

January 8, 2010

Reggae Star Held Without Bail On Cocaine Trafficking Charges

Rather than appearing at the Grammy Awards later this month, reggae singer, Buju Banton, will be spending his time in the Tampa federal detention center, at least for the time being. Bantom appeared with his Miami criminal lawyer before a federal court magistrate for his arraignment and pre-trial detention hearing.. With the assistance of his defense lawyer, he entered a not guilty plea to the charge of conspiracy to traffic cocaine and cocaine trafficking. Federal prosecutors requested that Banton be held without bail. Banton is facing at least a ten year mandatory prison sentence.

Banton's Miami criminal defense attorney did not oppose the motion for pre-trial detention because his is being by an immigration detainer. Even if Banton was granted a bond by the federal magistrate, the immigration hold would prevent him from leaving federal custody. It has become the custom in Miami and South Florida that individuals arrested who are in the United States on student or work visas will automatically be issued an immigration detainer. Banton must retain an immigration attorney to appear in court and seek a removal of the detainer or in the alternative seek a bond. Once the detainer has been removed, Banton will be free to appear in federal court and seek bail at a bond hearing.

Because Banton has been charged with cocaine trafficking, a Nebbia requirement will also attach to any bond he granted. In Florida state and federal court, all drug trafficking cases that are bond eligible require more than the mere posting of the bond. The defendant must provide documentation proving the cash and collateral put up for the bond did not come from the proceeds of an illegal enterprise such as drug trafficking, mortgage fraud or Medicare fraud. Banton should have no problem meeting the Nebbia requirement if he is granted a bond because he can show federal prosecutors and the judge that money and property put up as collateral on the bond come from his lucrative music business.

Banton's criminal case is set for trial in February, 2010. Whether he remains in custody during the pendency of his case remains to be seen. The indictment alleges that Banton contacted a confidential informant "CI" and set up a cocaine deal involving several kilos of cocaine. The alleged transaction occurred at a warehouse in Sarasota that was equipped with audio and video surveillance. Law enforcement often try to consummate drug deals at warehouses they own and operate to catch the transaction on surveillance cameras. Certainly, a jury would find a video on a cocaine or marijuana deal more convincing than a cops testimony.

Reggae Singer Banton Held Without Bail on Drug Charges, Tampa Bay Online, January 7, 2010.

January 7, 2010

Broward Lawyer Contemplating Plea Agreement

Disbarred Fort Lauderdale lawyer Scott Rothstein is allegedly going enter a guilty plea into charges including wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering. Prior to entering a plea, his Miami criminal lawyer is attempting to determine who suffered losses a result of the massive scheme to defraud. According to Rothstein's defense team, many of the individuals suffered losses as a result of feeder funds and other unnamed individuals. According to his Miami criminal defense attorney, 'Rothstein dealt with only a very limited number of people. He is surprised at the amount of people who actually claimed to be investors." The comments make sense in light of the fact that court documents and prosecutors refer to co-conspirators as being involved in the "Ponzi" scheme.

Rothstein's lawyer told a federal judge that his client intends on pleading guilty. He essentially told reporters the same thing outside of the courthouse. Rothstein's defense team has alluded to the fact that Rothstein intends on repaying all legitimate investors who lost money as a result of the scheme. There are other investors and investment funds that are alleged to have known of the "Ponzi" scheme and will not be entitled to restitution. They may also find their names added to the indictment.

To date, Rothstein has not spoken with federal investigators about the case. His Miami criminal attorney has acted as an intermediary in providing information to the authorities. The information provided thus far has been limited to Rothstein's involvement and does not allege any wrongdoing by co-conspirators. Rothstein is set to enter a change of plea on January 27, 2009, however, the hearing may be delayed if a plea agreement is not consummated between the government and the defense. An agreement may not be reached of Rothstein decides not to provide information regarding co-conspirators. Another delay in the change of plea maybe caused by a signed court order which will require the court to hold McLain hearing to determine if Rothstein's defense lawyer is the subject of related criminal investigation. The lawyer was previously employed by Rothstein's firm.

Eventually, Rothstein will enter a guilty plea. Once he has changed his plea, a sentencing date will be set in three or four months. During that time, the federal probation department will conduct a pre-sentence investigation which will include a background history of the defendant. Additionally, the probation department will calculate the potential sentence using the federal sentencing guidelines. The report will be provided the judge, the government and the defense. The defense and government will have the opportunity to file objections prior to the sentencing hearing in federal court. Rothstein could possibly receive approximately twenty years like Mark Dreier, the New York lawyer who sold false investment notes and stole from clients. The biggest problem Rothstein faces other than the charges themself, is the fact that he forged judges signatures and created fake court regarding civil court settlements and sold them to investors.

Rothstein Guilty Plea on the Horizon, Law.com, January 7, 2010.

January 5, 2010

Man Released On Federal Cocaine Trafficking Charge

A Monroe County man was cleared of cocaine trafficking charges in federal court. The defendant, Richard Wollferts became infamous years ago for his involvement in the car bombing of a local Miami divorce lawyer. The Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office prosecuted Wolfferts for the attempted first degree murder of Gino P. Negrettti. With the advice of his Miami criminal lawyer, Wolfferts accepted a five year plea deal with state prosecutors in exchange for his testimony against his co-defendant, Victor Seijas. The five year prison sentence ran concurrently with his federal prison sentence for marijuana trafficking.

Wolfferts testified that Seijas enlisted him to plant a car bomb in Negretti's Cadillac. The bomb exploded which left the divorce lawyer partially paralyzed. Wolfferts told jurors that Seijas ordered him to commit the bombing as revenge for representing his wife in a bitter divorce case. The jury did not buy the testimony provided that he committed the bombing in exchange for a fishing boat and Seijas was acquitted of all charges. Seijas's Miami criminal lawyers argued to the jury that Wolffert was lying to save himself from a lengthy prison sentence. They also attributed the acquittal to Wolffert's personality when he testified by saying, "he was completely vicious and frightening, he was scary to the jury, they totally rejected his testimony."

In September, Wolffert was indicted along with seven other co-defendants in a Miami cocaine trafficking case. Prosecutors alleged that the ring was transported large shipments of cocaine from Panama to Miami in hollowed-out pumpkins. Two of the defendants eventually came forward and told prosecutors that Wolffert did no have any knowledge of the ongoing cociane trafficking ring. The remaining co-defendants entered guilty pleas in federal court earlier this month. The charges against Wolffert were dismissed and we was released from federal custody on December 9, 2009.

There is a simple moral to the story. Even if a person is not involved in a criminal enterprise, i.e. cocaine trafficking, mortgage fraud or Medicare fraud, there is a significant danger in being involved with individuals who are engaged in these types of enterprises. Be aware of who you are involved with, especially if you have a prior criminal history. The prisons, both state and federal, are filled with innocent people who just happened to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong type of people.

Bomber Overcomes Drug Charges, The Miami Herald, December 29, 2009.

January 4, 2010

Miami Man Held Without Bond in Medicare Fraud Case

A federal magistrate judge held a man without bond on a massive Miami Medicare fraud case. Ihosvany Marquez appeared at his bond hearing this morning for charges stemming from a $55 million Medicare fraud scheme. The indictment alleges that Marquez billed the federal healthcare program for falsified HIV and cancer treatments allegedly performed at seven healthcare clinics in Miami and Orlando. Marquez and his co-defendants received approximately $22 million from Medicare between 2005 and 2007. A Miami criminal lawyer appeared on behalf of Marquez and entered a not guilty plea. The attorney argued for a bond. The magistrate decided and ordered pre-trial detention based on the assertions made by the U.S. Attorney's Office that Marquez was a substantial flight risk.

Marquez is alleged to have spent millions of dollars on expensive automobiles for himself, his wife and other family members. He also purchased in excess of $500,000 in jewelry and spent another million on thoroughbred race horses. Marquez was indicted along with his business partner Michel De Jesus Huarte. Huarte previously entered a guilty plea and is scheduled to appear later this month in federal court for sentencing. The large scale Medicare fraud was mostly consummated in the six Miami clinics. One of the clinics was called "Tender Loving Care".

Huarte and Marquez are also charged with money laundering by using shell companies such as Babalu Telemarketing and Madreagua Construction to name a couple of them. The Defendants are accused of billing Medicare for infusion treatments that were supposedly provided to patients, but were neither prescribed nor administered. They are also alleged to have hired Cuban immigrants to act as clinic owners. Court records indicate that the defendants advised the "straw owners" to flee to Cuba if they became involved in a federal investigation or were arrested. Two of the purported owners have allegedly already fled the jurisdiction.

As Medicare shut down the Marquez/Huarte operation, Huarte became involved with Ramon Fonseca in another Medicare fraud conspiracy. They owned and operated another 30 clinics in Miami and billed out approximately $46 million to private insurers operating under the umbrella of Medicare. Medicare paid out approximately $9 million to the clinics owned an operated by Huerta and Fonseca. If you have been contacted by federal law enforcement officer regarding healthcare fraud, contact an experienced Miami Medicare fraud criminal lawyer experienced in defending cases in federal court to protect your rights.

Suspect in $55 Million Miami-Dade Medicare Fraud Held Without Bail, The Miami Herald, January 4, 2009.

January 1, 2010

Senior Citizens Now Involved In Medicare Fraud Investigations

In Miami, and across the country senior citizens are assisting federal agents in investigating Medicare fraud. The Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) is another pitfall beset on those involved in Miami Medicare fraud. As if the recent news of a U.S. senator initiating a Medicare investigation against a Miami doctor was not problematic enough, senior citizens are reporting fraudulent activities to local, state and federal law enforcement authorities. Miami Medicare fraud defense lawyers are certainly keeping busy these days. The stepped up efforts of the SMP will definitely add to the number of arrests and indictments in federal court. The very people that clinic owners, doctors and nurses are using to pad their bills to Medicare are fighting back.

Recently, a senior citizen received a box filled with braces and a motorized scooter paid for by the federal Medicare program to assist her with her serious case of arthritis. She became alarmed because she had previously been provided the same equipment by Medicare. The elderly woman reported the incident to the SMP which then conducted its own independent investigation into the matter. Once the SMP completed the investigation, they provided the evidence of fraud to federal prosecutors who then secured indictments against the perpetrators. The SMP's involvement in Medicare investigations have led to several successful prosecutions. One of the reasons the SMP is so successful is that most people including fraudsters are unaware that the group exists.

There are approximately 4,700 volunteers who participate in the SMP. The group is responsible for several dozen arrests and is credited with saving the Medicare program in excess of $100 million since the group's inception. The group operates in part by attending senior citizen centers and retirement communities to educate the elderly in latest Medicare scams and to emphasize guarding their personal information and checking their monthly statements to ensure that their accounts are not being billed for treatment or equipment they did not receive. The SMP also operates call centers to receive complaints from senior citizens who believe their accounts have been fraudulently billed.

With the recent string of Miami Medicare fraud arrests, the SMP will certainly step up their efforts in South Florida. The SMP has been relentless when they get involved in investigating clinics. They continue to gather information against healthcare providers until the FBI and other federal investigators have enough evidence to build a case. The more investigations the SMP conducts, the more familiar they become with the different types of schemes to defraud. For all those who choose to make their living committing Medicare fraud, beware, they should be aware that their own patients may turn them in to the authorities.

Little-Known Team of Seniors Helps Uncover Medicare Fraud, The Miami Herald, January 1, 2010.