Obstruction of Justice in Healthcare Industry
If you have been charged with obstruction of justice in connection with a healthcare fraud investigation, you are likely facing the possibility of extensive prison time as well as excessive fines. It is imperative that you connect with the right criminal defense attorney immediately to halt the damages you may face in connection with your actions.
Why should you trust our Attorneys?
Our criminal defense attorneys have been defending clients against charges of healthcare fraud for years.
We hail from top law schools and diverse backgrounds, affording us the collective knowledge and experience necessary to anticipate every step of your case and defend you with the rigorous vigilance your situation requires.
The cases that did not trust our Attorneys.
Most of our clients who have dealt with obstruction of justice charges landed in their position because they chose not to consult with an attorney.
If you fall into this category, know that continuing to operate without top-notch legal counsel will only make your situation worse.
On the other hand, the sooner you obtain a criminal defense attorney, the sooner you not only stop the accumulation of charges and corresponding penalties but get to work reducing the consequences of your mistakes.
What do we offer?
We offer risk-free consultations, and our counsel is always supportive, confidential, and driven to give you your life back to the greatest extent possible. We know that the stress of your circumstances falls heaviest on you, and we see it is our duty to help turn your terrible situation into a better one.
Whether we can earn you an acquittal, dismissal, or a highly favorable plea deal, you can trust that when our criminal defense attorneys are behind you the best possible outcome is within reach.
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Healthcare Fraud, Generally:
Healthcare fraud costs the government billions per year, while simultaneously risking the wellbeing of countless patients. When taxpayer dollars allocated to cover the medical needs of the financially disenfranchised are funneled into the pockets of fraudsters, the government’s ability to provide that necessary coverage is jeopardized.
Further, unnecessary tests, arbitrary referrals, needlessly provided procedures, and profit-driven prescriptions waste time and energy of patients in desperate need of treatment, delaying the critical diagnoses and the urgent care their conditions require.
As a result, healthcare fraud is the subject of diligent investigatory efforts at both the federal and state level. It continues to grow as one of the most prosecuted crimes in the United States.
Obstruction of Justice in Healthcare Fraud:
Healthcare fraud can take a number of forms, including the receipt of kickbacks, billing for unnecessary or unprovided services, and performing unnecessary procedures. Due to the confidential nature of medical practice and the great deference afforded healthcare professionals, many schemes can go undetected for years.
As a result
Healthcare professionals involved in these schemes fall into the trap of thinking they are getting away with it. The more time that goes by, the more confidence may gain in the genius of their methods and the invulnerability of their wrongs. As a result, fraudsters get bolder and more reckless.
No matter how well constructed your plan, the delay in detection is largely due to the volume of healthcare providers and corresponding claims regulators are tasked with analyzing. In other words, healthcare fraud schemes may avoid detection for quite some time, but most are eventually uncovered.
As a result,
By the time most schemes are detected, they have racked up millions in fraudulently obtained funds. Penalties under the False Claims Act, for example, extend up to five years per false claim submitted. Thus the longer a scheme lasts, the more devastating the consequences tend to be.
As a result, most people feel they have no choice but to do everything they can to downplay or outright conceal the extent of their criminal liability from investigators. Unfortunately, this generally ends up making their situation far worse.
It is important to know that if you are under investigation or facing charges in connection with healthcare fraud, your options are not limited to either lying or telling the truth. Our criminal defense attorneys will hear all of the details of your case to help you determine how to respond to an investigation.
Obstruction of Justice by Statute:
Under federal law, obstruction of justice is generally defined as any “interference with the orderly administration of law and justice.” 18 U.S. Code § 1501 – 1521 lays out over 20 specific ways in which the crime can be committed. Examples include the following:
- Obstruction of proceedings before departments, agencies, and committees.
- Influencing or injuring an officer or juror.
- Obstruction of criminal investigations.
- Tampering with or retaliating against a witness, victim, or informant.
- Destruction of corporate audit records.
It is essential to understand that where obstruction of justice is concerned, the focus is more on the impact of your actions than the actions themselves. If you deliberately take action that interferes with an investigation or otherwise conceals the truth, you are likely giving rise to criminal liability.
However, this focus on effect does not mean that unsuccessful attempts at obstruction are un-punishable. As long as you acted with intent to impede an investigation, you are criminally liable.
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Under 18 U.S.C. §1512,
- It is a crime to knowingly use or attempt to use intimidation, threats or corrupt persuasion on another person with intent to induce the person to obstruct an investigation on your behalf.
- It means you do not have to be the one to take action in order to be held liable for obstruction. It is enough that you coerced or attempted to coerce another person to do so. Indeed, regardless of who takes the physical action, the proscribed punishment includes both fines and up to 20 years in prison.
- It is important to understand that if you are convicted of obstruction of justice, whatever sentence you receive will be in addition to the sentence you face in connection with the underlying crime.
- So if you are sentenced to 10 years in prison for violations under the False Claims Act, and 20 years for obstruction of justice, your total sentence will be 30 years.
Do you understand the Obstruction of justice?
Hopefully, you now understand how serious obstruction of justice charges can be. However severe the penalties you are facing in connection with healthcare fraud, attempting to cover up your actions will only make things worse.
If you have not yet made any efforts to impede the investigation, you should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately.
While you may feel that you are faced with the impossible decision between lying and sealing your fate as a criminal, our attorneys will help you sift through the facts of your story to determine how to best respond to questioning and requests for documentation. A huge part of our job includes illuminating possibilities you could not have identified by yourself.
When to consult Criminal Attorneys?
If you feel that you may have already committed obstruction of justice, and even if you have already been charged, you should still consult with a criminal attorney as soon as possible, in order to formulate a plan to not only “stop the bleeding” so to speak, but to soften the impact of the consequences already in motion.
Remember that our risk-free consultations are protected by the attorney-client privilege, which means that we are legally bound to keep our communications with you 100% confidential.
Further, our professional duty as criminal defense attorneys is to represent your best interests zealously. This means that our job is to suspend our personal opinions and concerns in order to provide you with the competent counsel you are constitutionally entitled to.
Our firm has represented a large number of clients facing obstruction of justice charges in connection with healthcare fraud.
Many have had questions regarding what kind of liability their organization might face for their actions. The answer depends on the type of business involved as well as other surrounding circumstances.
A corporation can be held criminally liable for the actions of its members under the doctrine of respondeat superior, which holds that where an employee of a corporation is acting within the scope of his employment, the organization can be held liable for that employee’s actions.
This is true even where an agent’s actions are wanton or reckless, provided the following requirements are met:
The action was intended to benefit the corporation: where obstruction in a healthcare fraud case is concerned, and fraudulent billing would be considered an action intended to benefit the corporation because the insurance reimbursements constitute income.
Destruction of documents revealing fraud would also be considered an action intended to benefit the corporation, in that, if successful, evidence of wrongdoing would be concealed, and the fraudulently obtained income would not be seized.
However, if a doctor shreds a patient’s medical record or lied about that patient to investigators to conceal that he had been having an affair with her, that action would not be considered one taken to benefit the corporation.
The employee had been granted the power to take action: this does not require outright instruction from the CEO to a staff member to bill for unprovided services, or to shred documents. Instead, it requires that the staff member has been granted the authority necessary to take those actions.
So a bookkeeper who took it upon herself to shred documents she was in charge of maintaining would likely meet this requirement, whereas a bookkeeper who broke into the CEO’s office to shred documents she did not have the authority to access would not.
The above examples demonstrate the degree to which you need a corporate compliance policy in place to protect yourself and your business from the actions of those you work with. Our criminal attorneys are available to help you assess your existing policy, to create a new policy, or to help defend your organization.
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Detecting obstruction of justice in a healthcare fraud case is easier than you might think. This is because, by the time you are under investigation, investigators have identified you as a suspect, which means half the battle has been won.
They may have gathered enough evidence to obtain search warrants entitling them to seek further evidence. Most importantly, they know their target and are unlikely to avert their gaze long enough for you to erase the criminal history they are devoting their resources to revealing.
Who are trained to detect factual inconsistencies and uncover bogus cover stories?
Our clients are often so consumed with shock and denial in the moment of questioning that they lack the perspective they think they have.
Indeed, the urge to run from the life-changing turn of events they have abruptly been faced with can overpower rationality and lead them right into the trap of further criminality.
That is why it is so imperative that you consult with a criminal defense attorney. Whatever stage your case may be as you read this, know that unless you are backed by the knowledgeable counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney, you cannot possibly have all of the knowledge you need to protect yourself best.
If you have already been charged with attempting to impede a healthcare fraud investigation, all is not lost. Obstruction of justice is a murky area of law with a lot of room for interpretation, and the right criminal defense attorney can exploit all ambiguities to your advantage.
To reach a conviction on obstruction of justice grounds the prosecution must establish sufficient evidence that you satisfy each element of the relevant statute.
To understand how this works, let’s look at the elements of 18 U.S. Code §1519, which governs the falsification of records. The statute is quoted below in its entirety and then followed by a breakdown of each statutory element:
Statutory language of 18 U.S. Code §1519:
“Whoever knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States or any case filed under title 11, or in relation to or contemplation of any such matter or case, shall be fined under this title, and imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.”
Elements of 18 U.S. Code §1519:
- alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry
- in any record, document, or tangible object
- with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence
- the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States or any case filed under title 11, or in relation to or contemplation of any such matter or case
How to prove each Element?
Our criminal defense attorneys know how to categorize the available evidence according to each element, in order to demonstrate to the prosecution that proof of each beyond a reasonable doubt cannot be established.
At the same time we use every court appearance and conversation with the prosecution as an opportunity to establish what you and your loved ones already know–that regardless of what mistakes you have made and even what crimes you may have committed, you are a valued member of your community that deserves a second chance.
Depending on the totality of the circumstances, this approach might lead the prosecution to drop your case far in advance of trial. It might lead the prosecution to present a more favorable plea deal than you were initially offered.
What do our Attorney Offer?
Our criminal attorneys are first and foremost advocates for your best interests. But we are also your counselors, tasked with the job of gathering the information you need to make the decision most appropriate for you.
We pride ourselves on doing the homework and going the extra mile because we know how important your freedom is to you. When you retain us, you become a part of our family, and we fight for you accordingly.
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Healthcare Obstruction in the News:
Stories of obstruction of justice resulting from healthcare fraud schemes are countless, for the reasons described above. Healthcare fraud schemes often overgrow beyond where they started, and by the time a physician or facility is under investigation decades in prison may be threatened.
The drive to do anything possible to avoid that fate is genuine for people, and without the sound guidance of an experienced criminal defense attorney, many make snap decisions that end up multiplying their penalties.
Here are some examples:
An employee of a medical center under investigation for healthcare fraud in Florida recently removed computers, documents, and other items from the facility.
The owner, who directed the removal, had fled to Colombia. When the FBI learned of the owner’s departure, they obtained a search warrant for the facility but arrived to find it had been cleared out.
The employee brought the FBI agents to the storage space where some of the documents and equipment had been transferred but neglected to inform them that some information-heavy equipment had been sold.
As a result, the employee pled guilty to one count of obstruction of a criminal healthcare investigation under Title 18, United States Code, Section 1518(a), and is facing the possibility of five years imprisonment along with a $250,000 fine.
Another 2018 example involved a conspiracy between three owners of a healthcare company. One owner had received $5000 in kickbacks for illegal referrals of hospice patients.
However, the owner denied receiving the kickbacks when questioned by the FBI and followed up the conversation by instructing the witness who reported the kickbacks to confirm the lie if questioned.
The other two owners further obstructed the investigation by falsifying medical records presented to the federal grand jury. While the owners have merely been indicted at this stage, they could face significant jail time if convicted.
Just a few years ago, the DOJ charged the owner of assisted living facilities and two others in a Medicare fraud scheme termed the largest-ever criminal healthcare fraud case in history.
The conspirators allegedly recommended unqualified patients to their network of facilities and then billed Medicare for medically unnecessary treatments. The scheme included illegal kickbacks from pharmacies and other providers and was concealed through advanced money laundering techniques.
One of the conspirators was charged with obstruction of justice after paying to fly another out of Miami to avoid the trial. While the case is still ongoing if convicted the defendants could face life imprisonment.
If you recognize yourself in any of these scenarios, know that the above examples are not intended to scare you, but rather to illuminate the critical importance of obtaining legal counsel. It is never too late to protect your interests.
What to Do:
If you have committed healthcare fraud, you are likely overcome with worry over how to avoid the excessive fines and substantial jail time convictions tend to carry.
As we have reinforced throughout this article, our best advice is not to try to handle this situation alone. There is a reason why the constitution entitles every criminal defendant to competent counsel.
It is because you cannot possibly have the combination of knowledge, experience, and perspective necessary to stand up to the charges you are facing. Just as the government employs prosecutors as advocates of its laws, you need to employ a criminal defense attorney to advocate for your freedom.