Florida Court Explains Penalties for Fraud Crimes

White-collar crimes, such as health care fraud, rarely cause bodily harm. That does not mean that they are not prosecuted as severely as violent crimes, however, as their convictions for fraud offenses often result in significant fines and prison sentences. As discussed in a recent Florida case, such penalties are often directly correlated to the financial losses caused by the offense. If you are charged with a fraud offense, it is prudent to talk to a St. Petersburg white-collar crime defense attorney to determine your options.

Case Fact and Procedure

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with conspiracy to commit health care and wire fraud, and money laundering in violation of federal law. The charges stem from fraudulent activities associated with a Florida substance abuse treatment center and sober home owned by the defendant and another person. The government presented evidence that the defendant and the other person engaged in a scheme to defraud insurance companies by submitting false claims for urinalysis and treatment.

Reportedly, this involved patients undergoing unnecessary drug testing, forgery of documents, and kickbacks to individuals for billing insurance plans. The fraudulent claims amounted to almost $50 million, with actual payments totaling over $17 million. The Presentence Investigation Report (PSI) recommended a total offense level of 39, which resulted in an advisory guidelines range of 262 to 327 months imprisonment. The defendant was sentenced to 60 months’ imprisonment and ordered to pay restitution, after which she appealed.

Penalties for Fraud Crimes

 On appeal, the defendant contested the PSI’s factual assertions, arguing for a lower loss amount of $4,756,444. She also objected to a 22-level increase in her offense level based on the amount of loss and challenged the restitution amount.

The court rejected her assertions and, relying on U.S.S.G. § 2B1.1, determined that the loss amount, reflecting the entire billed amount of $49.5 million, was appropriate. It also referenced Application Note 3(F)(viii) in the commentary, providing prima facie evidence of intended loss for health care offenses. Although the defendant argued that this note did not apply to her private insurance-related case, the court maintained its relevance.

The court sustained the defendant’s objection to a two-level increase for the number of victims, resulting in a total offense level of 37, however. The court then calculated an advisory guidelines range of 210 to 262 months, acknowledging the government’s request for a downward variance. The defendant’s final sentence was 60 months, with restitution set at $17,242,910.95, to be paid jointly with co-conspirators.

Finally, the court upheld the restitution amount imposed by the trial court, as the defendant failed to demonstrate the district court’s decision was in error, given the lack of proof of the medical necessity of the provided services. 

Contact a Skilled Florida Criminal Defense Attorney

Although white collar crimes generally do not harm people physically, they nonetheless can cause significant losses and, therefore carry staunch penalties. If you are charged with fraud or another white collar offense, it is smart to contact an attorney as soon as possible. The skilled St. Petersburg violent crime defense lawyers of Hanlon Law can evaluate your case and advise you of your options for seeking a favorable result. You can use our online form or call us at 727-897-5413 to schedule a meeting.

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