Former Miami Clinic Director Sentenced to 70 Months in Prison for Role in HIV Infusion Fraud Scheme

A former Miami HIV infusion clinic director was sentenced today to serve 70 months in prison for his role in a $26.2 million HIV infusion fraud scheme, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer of the Criminal Division, U.S. Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida, Acting Special Agent in Charge  Michael B. Steinbach of the FBI’s Miami Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Christopher B. Dennis of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations Miami office.
Enrique Gonzalez, 67, formerly of Miami, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga in the Southern District of Florida.  In addition to his prison term, Judge Altonaga sentenced Gonzalez to serve three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay $17,590,896 in restitution to HHS.

On Nov. 13, 2012, Gonzalez pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, to cause the submission of false claims, and to pay health care kickbacks, and one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

Gonzalez admitted that between August 2002 and March 2004, he conspired with co-defendant Ronald Harris, a Miami physician, and alleged co-conspirators to operate Physicians Med-Care and Physicians Health (together the “Physicians Clinics”), two Miami HIV infusion clinics.  According to court documents, the Physicians Clinics were owned and controlled by alleged co-conspirators Carlos Benitez and his brother Luis Benitez.  The Physicians Clinics purported to specialize in treating patients with HIV, but were operated for the sole purpose of committing Medicare fraud, according to court documents.  Gonzalez was a director of Physicians Med-Care and, at the direction of his co-conspirators, was responsible for the finances of the Physicians Clinics.

Gonzalez admitted that he agreed with his co-conspirators to handle the finances for the Physicians Clinics, moving the money paid by the Medicare program out of the Physicians Clinics’ accounts and into accounts owned and controlled by his co-conspirators.  According to court documents, Harris signed blank checks that Gonzalez used to transfer funds to various Benitez-owned entities and others, as directed by his co-conspirators.  In addition, Gonzalez agreed to provide cash to various co-conspirators at the Physicians Clinics to be used to pay bribes and kickbacks to the Medicare beneficiaries in return for those beneficiaries allowing the Physicians Clinics to bill the Medicare program for HIV infusion services that were not medically necessary and often not provided.

Gonzalez admitted that during his association with Physicians Med-Care, the clinic billed the Medicare program approximately $24.5 million in HIV infusion therapy claims, for which the clinic received $16.7 million in payments.  Gonzalez also admitted that during his time with Physicians Health, the clinic billed Medicare approximately $1.7 million and received approximately $800,000 in payment from the Medicare program for fraudulent services.

Gonzalez was a fugitive from justice from the time of his indictment in 2008, until he was located and detained in Peru in late 2011.  Gonzalez was extradited to the United States in July of 2012.  Gonzalez’ daughter, Carmen Gonzalez, was indicted in a related case and is currently a fugitive.

Co-defendant Harris pleaded guilty on Aug. 26, 2008, to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, to cause the submission of false claims and to pay health care kickbacks; one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud; and three counts of submitting false claims to the Medicare program.  Harris pleaded guilty in connection with his role as the medical director for the Physicians Clinics.  On Nov. 4, 2008, Harris was sentenced to serve 84 months in prison for his role in the scheme.

Carlos and Luis Benitez and Thomas McKenzie were charged separately with health care fraud and money laundering crimes in an indictment unsealed on June 11, 2008.  According to the separate indictment, the defendants provided the money and staff necessary to open the Physicians Clinics, the Medicare patients that the clinics needed to bill the Medicare program and transportation for the HIV patients who visited the clinics.  Carlos and Luis Benitez and McKenzie were charged for their role in committing approximately $109 million in HIV infusion fraud and money laundering through the Physicians Clinics and nine other HIV infusion clinics.

On Sept. 18, 2008, McKenzie pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of submitting false claims to the Medicare program, and admitted to his role in a $119 million HIV infusion fraud scheme.  On Dec. 18, 2008, McKenzie was sentenced to serve 14 years in prison.

Carlos and Luis Benitez are also fugitives.  Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of the fugitives is urged to contact HHS-OIG fugitive reporting phone line at 888-476-4453.

The defendants who have not been convicted are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The Physicians Med-Care and Physicians Health case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney N. Nathan Dimock of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.  The case was investigated by the FBI and the DHS Office of Inspector General.

The case was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.  The Department also thanks the Peruvian National Police Interpol Unit for their assistance.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,480 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $4.8 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.

Guest Columnist Al Scott, CFE: Emerging Health Care Fraud: Schemes Go Beyond Medicare, Medicaid Fraud (Part 1 of 2)

In part 1 of 2 parts, Guest Columnist Al Scott, CFE, principal for NSD Bio Group LLC in Philadelphia, Pa., describes lesser-known but emerging health care frauds, including schemes involving fraudulent treatments, cures and devices, and crimes involving the manufacture, sale or distribution of unapproved FDA-regulated products. In part 2, he describes Chinese emerging enforcement approaches.

The opinions expressed in this column aren’t necessarily those of GeyerGorey LLP.  Special thanks to Fraud Magazine for authorizing us to republish Al’s work— ed.

Nov-Dec ’12 Fraud Magazine Rx for Fraud column – Emerging Health Care Fraud

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You can email Al at cc532@nsdbiogroup.com

Owner of Texas Durable Medical Equipment Companies Convicted in Fraud Scheme

A Texas federal judge convicted the owner of two Texas-based durable medical equipment companies today on multiple health care fraud charges following a five-day bench trial, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
Hugh Marion Willet, 69, of Fort Worth, Texas, was found guilty by U.S. District Judge Jane J. Boyle in the Northern District of Texas on all seven counts of the June 2012 second superseding indictment: one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and six counts of health care fraud stemming from a durable medical equipment (DME) fraud scheme.  Willett?s wife, Jean Willett, previously pleaded guilty to the same charges and was sentenced in September 2012 to serve 50 months in prison.

The evidence at trial showed that between 2006 and 2010, the Willets co-owned and operated JS&H Orthopedic Supply LLC and Texas Orthotic and Prosthetic Systems Inc., which claimed to provide orthotics and other DME to beneficiaries of Medicare and private insurance benefit programs including Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield and CIGNA.

Evidence presented in court proved that both of these companies intentionally submitted claims to Medicare and other insurers for products that were materially different from and more expensive than what was actually provided, and that Hugh Marion Willett was a knowing and willing participant in the fraud.

At sentencing, currently scheduled for April 18, 2013, Hugh Marion Willett faces a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.

The case is being prosecuted by Fraud Section Trial Attorney Ben O’Neil and Deputy Chief Sam Sheldon of the Justice Department?s Criminal Division.  The case was investigated by the FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

Since their inception in March 2007, strike force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,480 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $4.8 billion.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

Seven Arrested, Charged with $22 Million Detroit-area Home Health Care Fraud Scheme

Six Detroit-area residents and one Chicago-area resident were arrested today by federal agents on charges arising from the ongoing investigation into an alleged $22 million home health care fraud scheme.  The indictment was announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan; Special Agent in Charge Robert D. Foley III of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office; Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Chicago Regional Office; and Special Agent in Charge Erick Martinez of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Detroit Field Office.

According to the 18-count indictment returned Jan. 15, 2013, and unsealed today, the seven individuals allegedly participated in a Medicare fraud scheme operating out of four Oakland County, Mich., home health agencies claiming to provide in-home health services: Royal Home Health Care Inc., Prestige Home Health Services Inc., Platinum Home Health Services Inc. and Empirical Home Health Care Inc.  The indictment alleges Medicare paid the agencies approximately $22 million for fraudulently reported services since August 2008.

In addition to the arrests, law enforcement agents suspended Medicare payments to four health care companies associated with the alleged scheme.

Muhammad Aamir, 42; Usman Butt, 39; Hemal Bhagat, 31; Syed Shah, 50; Tariq Tahir, 46; and Raquel Ellington, 56, of the Detroit area; and Tayyab Aziz, 43, from the Chicago area, each are charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud.  All but Aziz are also charged with health care fraud and with conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute.  Butt, Bhagat, Shah and Aziz are additionally charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.

According to the indictment, Aamir and Butt owned and operated Prestige; Butt, Bhagat and Shah owned and operated Royal; and Aamir owned and operated Platinum and Empirical – all of which allegedly claimed to provide home health therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries that were unnecessary and/or were never performed.  The indictment alleges Tahir and Ellington recruited Medicare beneficiaries, paying them kickbacks for their Medicare information and signatures on documents that detailed physical therapy and/or skilled nursing services that were either never rendered or not medically necessary.  Aamir, Butt, Bhagat, Shah, Tahir and Ellington are also charged with conspiring to pay kickbacks to Tahir and Ellington for their recruiting work.  Butt, Bhagat, Shah and Aziz allegedly conspired to launder the proceeds of the scheme.

The charges of health care fraud conspiracy and health care fraud each carry a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  The charge of conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $25,000 fine.  The charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

An indictment is merely a charge and defendants are presumed innocent unless nad until proven guilty.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Niall M. O’Donnell of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.  The investigation is conducted jointly by the FBI and HHS-OIG, as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, and IRS-CI, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Since their inception in March 2007, strike force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,480 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $4.8 billion.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

Hudson County, N.J., Pediatrician Charged With Fraudulently Billing Medicaid For Nearly $1 Million

NEWARK, N.J. – A Hudson County, N.J., pediatrician was arrested at his home this morning for fraudulently billing Medicaid $900,000 for wound-repair treatments on children that were never rendered, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Badawy M. Badawy, M.D., 50, of Bayonne, N.J., a licensed pediatrician who owns and operates Sinai Medical Center of Jersey City LLC, a medical practice focusing primarily on pediatrics and family medicine, billed Medicaid thousands of times for nearly $900,000 worth of wound repairs on children and adolescents. He was charged by Complaint with healthcare fraud and is scheduled to make his initial court appearance later today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy L. Waldor in Newark federal court.

According to the Complaint:

From January 2004 through December 2008, Badawy billed Medicaid, through its managed care companies, for certain wound repairs more frequently than any other service provider in the State of New Jersey. His claims for these supposed treatments represented a strong majority of all such claims submitted to Medicaid by all New Jersey medical providers during this time period, including 99.4 percent of all claims for the suturing or stapling of facial wounds larger than 30 centimeters.

Virtually all of these claims, which were submitted for supposed wound repairs on children, were fraudulent. Badawy’s patient charts for a large sample of these children who supposedly received treatment revealed no entry, notation, or other evidence, such as suturing or other closing methods, to support his claims that these procedures were actually performed.

The Complaint also identifies by initials 10 children whom Badawy claimed to have treated for wound repairs on numerous occasions.

∙ From April 2004 through June 2007, Badawy purportedly treated three children on 28 separate occasions for a total of 49 procedures involving some type of wound repair. According to the children’s mother, none of these children has ever had a cut that required stitches or other methods of wound closure.

∙ From March 2006 through February 2007, Badawy submitted eight claims for facial wound repairs, including two 30-centimeter facial wound repairs, on a single teenager during four different visits. According to the teenager, he had never seen Badawy for wounds to his face or other body parts.

∙ From July 2005 through July 2007, Dr. Badawy supposedly performed 15 wound repairs, including six 30-centimeter facial wound repairs, on a boy on eight separate occasions. According to the boy, he was never treated for a cut to his face.

The charge of health care fraud carries a maximum potential penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss resulting from the crime.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Thomas O’Donnell, and the FBI, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge David Velazquez, with the investigation leading to today’s arrest.
The government is represented by Scott B. McBride of the U.S. Attorney’s Health Care and Government Fraud Unit.

13-030
Defense counsel: Michael J. Keating Esq., Cranford, N.J.

***Antitrust Monitor (Inaugural Issue): 2013 Forecast***

Renewed Vigilance Regarding Civil Enforcement; Continued Consolidation, Integration and Acceptance of Structural Changes at Criminal Program; Higher Morale

Baer’s Confirmation is unlikely to change momentum, policies or priorities.

As the Obama Administration prepares for a second term, Bill Baer has been confirmed as Assistant Attorney General.  The Antitrust Division’s informal profile photo of Baer captures his genuine humility and good will that many Antitrust Division attorneys will immediately recognize from numerous interactions with him when he represented clients as a partner at Arnold & Porter.  Baer’s easygoing nature is no contrivance and he will build on this long track record of good relations with many of the attorneys and mid-level managers at the Antitrust Division.  In addition to the normal productivity enhancements associated with having confirmed leadership at the helm, Baer’s tenure at the FTC suggests that he will implement an effective management style and push more expansive enforcement goals.  We also believe that Baer’s confirmation will improve morale (discussed more fully below) and Baer will quickly calm the ripples caused by programmatic changes that resulted in field office closure and attrition of seasoned prosecutors in the criminal program.

Continued Civil Enforcement Vigilance 

In its first term, the Obama Administration took some modest steps toward its goal of revitalizing civil enforcement.  The Division repudiated the Bush administration’s monopolization guidelines and expressed a greater willingness to challenge unilateral conduct and exclusionary business arrangements, although it only brought one monopolization case.  That the Obama administration managed a slight increase in second requests is significant since it occurred in the midst of significantly dampened merger activity caused by the financial crisis.  Perhaps the most telling metric was discovered by the Stanford Law Review (SLR Online, 65 STAN. L. REV. ONLINE 13, July 18, 2012):

“[t]he Bush Administration conducted 0.04 investigations per Hart-Scott filing; Obama conducted 0.05 investigations per filing. The Bush Administration made 0.013 second requests for information per Hart-Scott filing; Obama’s made 0.020—a 50% increase on a per capita basis.

Combine this 50% increase with a few more high profile enforcement actions that included AT&T/T-Mobile, H&R Block/TaxAct, NASDAQ/NYSE, and BCBS/Physicians Health, and the Obama administration can make a plausible case that it has already reinvigorated enforcement. During his Senate confirmation hearings in July, Baer told lawmakers that he supported Congressional action to repeal the Supreme Court’s Leegin decision which imposed rule of reason analysis for resale price maintenance where per se analysis, albeit with loopholes, had sufficed in the past.

This was music to Democratic ears in the Senate that clearly prefer more aggressive enforcement.  Senator Herb Kohl, D-Wis had expressed concerns back in July regarding Google potentially using its market power in search engine technology to favor its products and services.  Baer did not answer Kohl’s question as to Google, but he did share his enforcement philosophy generally: “being vigilant whether its Microsoft or Alcoa Aluminum about firms that are successful, and we don’t want to penalize success but to make sure it’s not improperly translated into unfair advantage in other markets, is really a key part of what antitrust is all about.”  This comment suggests a revival of monopoly leveraging, always a favorite of Democrat administrations even if the courts have been less receptive.

Will Baer lead the Division on a path to reinvigoration?  He may have provided an answer last week when he came out of the box swinging against the merger between Bazaarvoice and Powerreviews Inc. (involving online customer reviews for retailers) and Oklahoma Chiropractors (which challenged joint contracting agreements with insurers).  Of these first two significant actions of Baer’s tenure, Bazaarvoice is the one that is suggestive of reinvigoration and expansion.  The customer reviews market is evolving at rocket speed, there are challenges for the government regarding market definition and it is unclear that the barriers to entry can be all that high, particularly when well-funded behemoths like Google and Facebook seem to have position for market entry.  Notably, the company was vocal in its frustration about the “six months” it spent in negotiations with the Antitrust Division, suggesting that it could have announced this challenge prior to Baer taking the helm.  The fact that Baer announced it after he assumed his duties suggests that he sees a strong case.   Certainly it would not have escaped Baer’s attention that a decision like this would allow many to interpret this is a bullish signal that Baer plans to reinvigorate, revitalize and expand the Antitrust Division’s mission regarding civil enforcement.

At the FTC, Chairman Leibowitz, a Democrat, has served as an FTC commissioner for eight years and as chairman for almost four years. As rumors circulate regarding his likely departure, President Obama must consider potential replacements. The president could appoint a new chairman from the sitting Democratic commissioners, or he could choose someone from outside the agency. The president recently nominated Joshua Wright, a Republican, to replace outgoing Republican commissioner J. Thomas Rosch, whose term expired in September. Commissioner Rosch has indicated that he will stay in his position until the Senate confirms Wright. Although no more than three of the FTC’s five commissioners, who each serve seven-year terms, can be of the same political party, President Obama’s reelection ensures a Democratic majority at the FTC. Three of the five FTC commissioners will continue to be Democrats, and the chairman, who appoints the directors of the Bureaus of Competition and Consumer Protection, will also be a Democrat.  Accordingly, there is little reason to expect a new direction in antitrust enforcement priorities.

Continued Consolidation and Integration of Structural Changes at Criminal Program 

In the first Obama term, cartel enforcement was the Division’s top criminal priority to the exclusion of things like procurement fraud.  Almost certainly, these headwinds still exist, but time will tell whether Baer can be successful at reducing impediments to opening investigations that do not present themselves on first impression as Section 1 conduct.  Although people can argue over the causes, the Antitrust Division grand jury investigations plummeted from over 150 to fewer than 60 overall and new openings fell from 66 to 29.  Most of this came at the expense of Department’s procurement fraud program and overall anti-competitive deterrence in the area of government procurements has been grievously affected as a result.

On paper, cartel enforcement was little changed from the Bush years, although some of the Division’s numbers were marginally inflated by splitting criminal information’s in non-traditional ways and there is a widespread concern that the pipeline of “small” or “bread and butter” investigations is dry.  Airline Shipping and Auto Parts are behemoth investigations that generate a wealth of statistics, but there are 90 fewer industries that are the subject of grand jury investigations and it is impossible to measure deterrence that is not happening.

In procurement fraud, the Bush administration gave the Antitrust Division a long leash and authorized its use of resources in most allegations that affected the pre-award contract process.  As the Obama Administration strained its resources to support invigorated civil enforcement and it pushed investigative resources toward financial crimes, the administration implemented a series of policy changes that significantly reduced Antitrust Division criminal investigations.  First, it was made much more difficult for attorneys to open grand jury investigations involving matters that did not present themselves on first impression as suspected antitrust conspiracies.  Since very few antitrust criminal cases ever “present” as fully-fledged antitrust conspiracies (i.e.. evident participation by more than one competitor), investigation requests plummeted.  This effect was particularly pronounced in procurement because so few government contracts are awarded through an invitation for bid (”IFB”) process and more are awarded sole source, best value and through a request for proposal procedure where price is not the only factor.  These contracting schemes make it difficult, if not impossible as a matter of law, to use the Sherman Act to prosecute schemes affecting contracts that were not awarded through an IFB process.

Second, the Antitrust Division implemented a new, computerized tracking system that made it harder to keep open investigations that were not being actively investigated.  Because grand jury authority is held at the AAG level in contrast to the Criminal Division (delegated to the DAAG) and the United States Attorneys’ Offices (delegated to line assistants), getting grand jury investigations opened takes the Antitrust Division greater resources than other components.  Line attorneys refer to this process with dread as “the investigation to get grand jury investigative authority.”  Because the Antitrust Division has to invest greater resources into securing grants of grand jury authority and because this authority requires higher levels of approval, it is relatively unusual to reopen a grand jury investigation after closure.  In the past, keeping investigations “on the books” might allow a staff to focus on another industry or to offer help to another investigative staff on an investigation that had “gone hot.”  It also might allow another contract to be awarded or another coordinated price increase to be implemented that might significantly further the investigation.  For these and other reasons, putting open cases on the back burner became verboten and if investigations did not hit success early on they got closed.  The new case matter tracking system often pushes staffs to make tactical decisions that would be better made later after the emergence of new leads, information or evidence.  Ironically, in some respects, the Antitrust Division now pursues an operations policy that reminds line attorneys of some partner investigative agencies who years ago would have to close investigations and then struggle to reopen them if a staff determined that a three month delay was advisable.  Because case filings (i.e. stats) are the paramount metric, this provides disincentives to working any case that is at all considered “marginal” and the Division’s deterrence footprint has shrunk.

Third, by January 30, 2013, the Division will have closed four of its seven field offices, a move that has adversely impacted morale.  Although this was sold as a serious consolidation plan for which many employees would avail themselves and relocate to Washington D.C. or the remaining field offices (San Francisco, New York, and Chicago), this does not seem to be happening in any great numbers.  Using the Philadelphia and Cleveland Field Offices as examples, we count a total of three attorneys who will be staying with the Division.

Baer’s mission is not an easy one.  He joins the Antitrust Division just prior to the formal shut down of four offices and significant attrition; he joins an Antitrust Division that has fewer raw materials in the investigations pipeline.  Still we have caucused Antitrust Division attorneys who are staying with the agency and there is reason for optimism.  As word filters back that Antitrust Division attorneys who severed or retired were dealt with fairly and considerately, active concerns will dissipate and we believe Baer can drive a newly structured criminal program to fire on all cylinders by the end of this fiscal year.   There could be reinvigorated activity as a rumored new section formed in Washington D.C. (staffed by detailees and transferring attorneys) and offices in San Francisco, Chicago (currently slated for one additional expat prosecutor) and New York receive transferring prosecutors and lateral hires to stem attrition, and we expect to see vibrant competition by attorneys for investigations.  Most notably, the rumored new section in Washington D.C., that will be comprised of expats from some of the closed field offices, will see the National Criminal Enforcement Section (NCES) as its main competition and we expect fierce competition to develop creative strategies for generating new cases.

Former FEMA Executive Pleads Guilty to Federal Conflict of Interest Charge Defendant Sought Job From Company That Did Work for FEMA

WASHINGTON—Timothy W. Cannon, 63, the former director of human resources at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), pleaded guilty today to a charge of conflict of interest for negotiating employment with a polling and consulting services company that had a multi-million-dollar contract with FEMA, supervised by Cannon.

The plea occurred before the Honorable Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Sentencing is scheduled for April 9, 2013. The charge carries a statutory maximum of five years in prison.

The guilty plea was announced by Ronald C. Machen, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division; Debra Evans Smith, Acting Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; Christopher Cherry, Special Agent in Charge of the General Services Administration Office of Inspector General for the National Capital Region; and Mike Dawson, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General’s Washington Field Office.

According to the government’s evidence, from July 2007 through February 2009, Cannon was the director of FEMA’s Human Capital Division. In 2007, Cannon had discussions with a firm, identified in court papers as “Company A,” about FEMA hiring the firm to provide consulting services on human resources matters at FEMA. The work would be done through a project that would eventually be called the “BEST Workforce Initiative.”

In March 2008, the chief executive officer of Company A e-mailed another Company A employee, stating Cannon “said he has done everything to get a job at [Company A] because he believes so much in our products…said he wants to do a real good job at FEMA and that mabye [sic] he would try again….” On April 22, 2008, Company A’s CEO e-mailed another Company A employee that “…if [Cannon] gets us a big deal at FEMA…i [sic] think we should hire him…because he will be a ‘client’ hire…which might be good[.]” Later in the same e-mail chain, Company A’s CEO asked, “[I]s the ink dry yet on our deal with fema [sic] [?]” The Company A employee replied, “[N]o might be mid-May.” Company A’s CEO then stated, “[W]e should wait of course to see if we win a big quality deal here[.]”

On August 12, 2008, Company A was hired to administer the BEST Workforce Initiative at FEMA. The contract was valued at approximately $6 million over five years.

On November 18, 2008, a Company A employee advised Company A’s CEO in an e-mail, “I talked to Tim today. He asked for a job.” Company A’s CEO then stated, “What about ethics…are we okay with all of that…he is a significant client…am sure you know the rules…gee he seems like a winner to me…I don’t think these guys are as expensive as one might think…and he has a military background[.]”

In December 2008 and January 2009, Cannon requested additional funding for the BEST Workforce Initiative. On January 6, 2009, in an e-mail to a Company A employee, Cannon stated, “[A]h yes, I got another 500k put on the contract. Cool huh?”

On January 12, 2009, Cannon had an employment interview with Company A in Washington, D.C. On February 9, 2009, Company A sent an employment offer letter by e-mail to Cannon. The letter offered Cannon “the opportunity to join [Company A] as a Partner with our Government Division in Washington, D.C.” and guaranteed him a minimum annual salary of $175,000 for the first two years of employment. Cannon responded to the e-mail the same day, stating, “I am very excited about joining [Company A] and I look forward to working with you….” Following Cannon’s acceptance of Company A’s employment offer, Cannon continued to oversee and work on the BEST Workforce Initiative at FEMA.

Cannon retired from FEMA effective on February 27, 2009. On his public financial disclosure report, known as Form SF-278, Cannon indicated that he did not have any agreements or arrangements for “future employment” and he specifically did not list his future employment with Company A. On February 27, 2009, Cannon requested that Company A provide him with an offer letter dated after February 27, 2009, so that it would falsely appear that Cannon received Company A’s employment offer after he had resigned from FEMA. On March 2, 2009, Company A sent an updated version of the offer letter, with the new date of March 2, 2009, to Cannon. Cannon signed this updated version of the offer letter on March 3, 2009, and returned it to Company A.

In March 2009, a Company A employee voiced concerns internally about Cannon’s hiring. In addition, on March 25, 2009, a Company A employee stated in an e-mail to another Company A employee, “Well, I just got a call from and am getting more red flags about Tim Cannon. Apparently, word is getting around about his departure and joining [Company A]. There is speculation among is [sic] co-workers that this is improper. They are pretty mad. This may get in the way of future business with FEMA….This, plus the bankruptcy, plus appearance of ethics violations, both on [Company A] and FEMA side. This is not good….I think we are getting too many sign[s], and I do not think this will work.” On March 26, 2009, Company A informed Cannon that Company A’s offer of employment was being withdrawn. Company A told Cannon that he did not meet the background check requirements.

Later, on September 17, 2009, Cannon sent an e-mail to Company A’s CEO advising that Cannon had joined a consulting firm and asking to have lunch. Company A’s CEO forwarded that e-mail to other Company A employees stating, “This is a guy that was our sponsor at FEMA…he is so [Company A] gung ho…when he was applying we broke some of the rules of the U.S. Gov on the ‘how’ we do it…so we had to let him go….”

In announcing the guilty plea, U.S. Attorney Machen, Assistant Attorney General Breuer, Acting Assistant Director in Charge Smith, Special Agent in Charge Cherry, and Special Agent in Charge Dawson commended the outstanding investigative work of agents of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, Assistant Special Agent in Charge Floyd Martinez of the GSA OIG and agents of the DHS OIG, as well as agents and auditors of other federal investigative agencies that assisted with this case. They also praised the efforts of members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Criminal Division Fraud Section, including Paralegal Specialists Diane Hayes and Nicole Wattelet; Legal Assistant Jamasee Lucas; Information Technology Specialist Joshua Ellen; forensic accountants in the Fraud and Public Corruption Section; and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Johnson, Trial Attorney Brian Young, and former Trial Attorney James Graham, who have prosecuted the case.

Former Member of Port Authority Board Sentenced to 57 Months in Prison

Robert M. Peto, a former member of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority, was sentenced to more than four years in prison today after previously pleading guilty to violating the Hobbs Act, law enforcement officials said today.

Peto, 58, lives in Gates Mills, Ohio. He served as a member of the Port Authority Board between December 2004 through in or around August 2012, according to court documents.

Peto obtained property not due to him or his Port Authority office including free and discounted home improvements and materials, entertainment, and a financial benefit related to a vehicle acquisition, according to court documents.

The property and objects were provided by Michael Forlani and/or Doan Pyramid LLC and Neteam, AVI, companies in which Forlani had an ownership interest, according to court documents.

“This sentence shows the high cost to those who would violate the public’s trust in exchange for personal gain,” said Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cleveland Field Office. “Corruption—in this case taking bribes and utilizing his position as a board member for the Port Authority—will not be tolerated.”

The conduct took place between 2004 and October 2, 2007, according to court documents.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Antoinette T. Bacon and Nancy L. Kelley following an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Labor, and Internal Revenue Service–Criminal Investigation.

11/3/1998 EDPA Historical Society Celebration of 50 Years of Antitrust Enforcement by the Philadelphia Field Office of the Antitrust Division

Later this month, four Antitrust Division field offices in Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas and Philadelphia close their doors for good.  The link below hearkens back to happier day on November 3, 1998, when the Historical Society of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania honored and celebrated the Philadelphia Field Office’s 50th year of cartel enforcement

Please click the link below:

Historical Society Celebrates Philadelphia Field Office of the Antitrust Division

 

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GeyerGorey LLP
Attorneys At Law

Former Law Firm IT Chief and Contract Employee Vendor Indicted in $4.8 Million Billing Fraud and Kick-back Scheme

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 11, 2013

CHICAGO — The former chief information officer of a Chicago-based international law firm who was charged previously, and the president of a company that provided contract technology workers who was charged for the first time and arrested today, were indicted for allegedly engaging in a fraudulent billing and kickback scheme that netted each of them more than $2 million. NICHOLAS DEMARS, the president of NS Mater, a defunct firm that provided contract employees and technology to assist in office automation, web and database development, and general information technology, was arrested today and indicted with DAVID TRESCH, the former law firm officer who supervised the work and billing related to the contract employees.

For the first six years of the scheme that began in 2004, Demars allegedly paid Tresch a portion of the profits that NS Mater made from work its contract employees performed at the victim law firm. During the last two years ending in June 2012, Tresch allegedly received kickbacks totaling nearly all of the false billings that the law firm paid NS Mater for work that was not performed.

Tresch, 51, and Demars, 57, both of Itasca, were each charged with 10 counts of mail fraud in an indictment that was returned by a federal grand jury yesterday and unsealed today after Demars was arrested. Demars was released on bond after appearing this morning before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sidney Schenkier in U.S. District Court. Tresch, who was released on bond after he was arrested in August, will be arraigned at a later date in Federal Court.

The indictment also seeks forfeiture of $4,819,253 representing the combined net proceeds that both men allegedly obtained from the scheme, as well as their respective homes, Demars’ condominium in Chicago, and a residence in Lake Geneva, Wis., and more than $225,000 that was seized from Tresch along with his camping trailer, a van, and a luxury automobile.

The charges were announced by Gary S. Shapiro, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Thomas R. Trautmann, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

According to the initial complaint, the victim law firm, which was not identified by name, reported Tresch’s alleged criminal activity and cooperated in the investigation. The firm, which has offices worldwide, hired Tresch in May 2004 and he held several positions in the information technology department before he was promoted in July 2011 to chief information officer.

The indictment alleges that between November 2004 and March 2011, the law firm issued checks totaling approximately $7.68 million to NS Mater, and Demars, in turn, kicked back $1.14 million to Tresch. In 2004 and 2005, Demars allegedly paid kickbacks directly to Tresch after paying legitimate NS Mater contract employees and payroll administrators for work they had performed for the law firm. Beginning in April 2006, allegedly to conceal the kickbacks, Demars began paying Tresch by issuing checks to Tresch’s wife and treating her as an employee of NS Mater, even though both defendants knew that she was not an employee and had not performed any work, according to the indictment. Tresch’s wife is not a defendant.

Subsequently, in late 2010, Tresch learned that that the law firm would soon stop using NS Mater contract employees, and, in February 2011, the firm directed Tresch to no longer permit NS Mater to provide personnel for the information technology department. Between November 2011 and June 2012, Demars allegedly continued submitting invoices to Tresch totaling more than $1.1 million, falsely representing that NS Mater performed work that both defendants knew was not performed. Tresch submitted the false invoices, which the firm paid, and of the $1.1 million paid during this period, Demars kicked back approximately $970,000 to Tresch, while retaining the remainder for himself, the indictment alleges.

Each count of mail fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and restitution is mandatory. The Court may impose an alternative fine totaling twice the loss to the victim or twice the gain to the defendant, whichever is greater. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.

The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Terra Reynolds.

The public is reminded that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.