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As regular followers of this blog’s ongoing series on Los Angeles Medicare fraud know, the Federal Government has been stepping up its campaign to bust up Southern California insurance fraud and other white collar crimes – particularly Medicare and Medicaid related schemes. oscar-linares-medicare-fraud.jpg

Today, we’ll focus on a major news story out of Detroit, Michigan. According to the AP, Oscar Linares, a 53-year-old Michigan doctor, allegedly fraudulently billed Medicare for $5.7 million between 2008 and 2010. The Wednesday before last, authorities broke into Linares’ clinic, The Monroe Pain Center, and arrested the doctor.

According to reports from the Monroe Evening News, Linares’ Medicare fraud was unusually intense. He allegedly saw 250 patients a day – actually, he didn’t specifically “see” the patients, he had proxies see the patients and dole out prescriptions for controlled substances like OxyContin. Indeed, if more than 200 patients came in a day, employees allegedly would get bonuses!

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Last week, 700 FBI and Health and Human Services agents rounded up 111 suspects in nine cities – including five people suspected of Los Angeles Medicare fraud – in the “largest-ever Federal health care fraud takedown” in the United States, according to government officials. The Los Angeles Times reports that five LA defendants “cheated the government out of more than $225 million in false billing schemes that included fraudulent claims, kickback operations, money laundering and identity theft.”southern-california-medicare-fraud.jpg

A spokesperson for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, said “our message is clear… we are determined to put Medicare fraudsters out of business.”

The Justice Department’s task force has really revved up, since its inception in early 2007. So far, nearly 1,000 people have been charged for false billing schemes – approximately 75% of these people have been convicted. The average prison sentence has been quite substantial – 43 months (more than 3.5 years). In 2010 alone, national, state, and local task forces raked in about $4 billion in fines and recovery payments.

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When you picture Southern California medical, dental, or chiropractic fraud arrests, you might envision a surly doctor conspiring with a criminal cohort to develop sophisticated white collar crime techniques. los-angeles-medicare-fraud-3.jpg

You might not imagine that eight nurses (between the ages of 32 and 55) would be capable of pulling off a scam that bilked Medicare out of nearly $19 million.

But that’s exactly what the Department of Justice has alleged against eight RNs in Miami. The owners of two health care agencies, Florida Home Health Care Providers Inc. and ABC Home Health Inc., allegedly charged Medicare for unnecessary services (or services that never got provided) to the tune of $18.7 million. Last Tuesday, the eight nurse-owners – Diana Sanabia, Daisy Santos, Roberto Rodriguez, Marlene Magadan, Maria Perez, Alberto Alvarez, Yanisley Chao, and Leonardo Malagon — got sentenced to prison time as well as forced restitution (upwards of $700,000) for their roles in the Medicare scam.

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On June 7, a Riverside, California man named Rene Montes entered a guilty plea for dozens of counts of Southern California insurance fraud. The California Department of Insurance reported that Montes pled guilty to felony conspiracy, three counts of felony tax evasion, 59 counts of felony insurance fraud and 59 grand theft felony counts. Sentencing has been set for the end of July. Montes allegedly bilked insurance companies out of $1.5 million by perpetrating a scam to collect funds from AIG Claim Services with respect to outstanding workers’ compensation medical liens.los-angeles-Insurance-fraud.jpg

According to reports, Montes perpetrated the scam from around August 2003 through January 2006. Three other people have also been charged in connection with this Southern California insurance fraud: 47-year-old Cara Cruz-Thomson, 46-year-old Hector Porrata, and 43-year-old George Martinez. The three co-defendants were sentenced in the beginning of May for their connection with the scam. Porrata pled guilty to 50 counts each of grand theft felony and felony insurance fraud as well one felony count of conspiracy. The court ordered him to pay out $1.2 million and serve an 8-year prison sentence. Cruz-Thomson pled guilty to 11 counts each of grand theft and insurance fraud as well as a conspiracy count. She received a two-year prison sentence and an order to pay more than $220,000 in restitution. Martinez also pled guilty to 11 counts of grand theft and insurance fraud as well as a count of conspiracy. He also got a two-year prison sentence and an order to pay around $300,000 in restitution.

The Orange County District Attorney’s office and California Department of Insurance worked together for months to unpack all the subtleties of this Southern California white collar crime.

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Last Wednesday, a Federal Judge gave a Pennsylvania doctor, John Kristofic, a year and a day in prison pursuant to a healthcare scam that lasted from 2003 to 2008. Southern California healthcare fraud experts have been poring over Judge Ambrose’s decision to determine whether and how the decision might be impact local cases.dr-John%20Kristofic.jpg

The perplexing saga of Dr. Kristofic
The 62-year-old Dr. Kristofic (of Shadyside, PA) has a long and tumultuous history with the law. Back in the 1980s, he was brought up on charges under the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act of stealing more than a $1 million by billing for non-medically necessary tests. He allegedly invested the proceeds of this scam into private commercial real estate. The doctor settled that case for $0.75 million. He was later arrested and convicted of driving under the influence, AND he got probation for lying about his asset portfolio in 1991.

His latest arrest pertains to similar charges. From 2003 to 2008, Dr. Kristofic allegedly unfairly billed Medicare and other private insurers for services he never provided to his patients. Many Southern California healthcare fraud experts — at this point reading about Dr. Kristofic’s bio –would feel pretty confident that his repeated chronic violations of the law should merit a harsh sentence.

But… the story thickens.

It turns out that Dr. Kristofic has another side — an altruistic and giving one. Among other things, he provided free medical care for organizations like Operations Safety Net, Alcoholics Anonymous, and Catholic Charities. In a 2006 trip to Haiti, he gave out free care to the sick, an act which a local Reverend said “exuded a sense of compassion… it was extraordinary.” And Judge Ambrose received 60+ letters from various people and organizations commending Dr. Kristofic for his charity and extraordinary givingness.

As you can see, cases of Southern California insurance fraud can be a lot more complicated than they first appear in the headlines.

If you or a family member has been charged with healthcare fraud or any other white collar crime in Southern California, consider protecting yourself by retaining high quality legal counsel.

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The Department of Justice emerged victorious on Tuesday in a case against Alan M. Ralsky, the self-titled Godfather of Spam. The 64 year-old Ralsky was sentenced to jail time as well as substantial fines for computer fraud in southern California and elsewhere.alanralksy.jpg

The DOJ had argued that Ralsky — in conjunction with a ring of associates — violated the CAN SPAM Act and engaged in money laundering, mail fraud, wire fraud, and illegal use of emails and computer networks. Court documents said that his spammer ring worked for about a year and a half (from 2004 to mid 2005) to artificially jack up the prices of certain stocks by sending out bulk spam emails to people. After the stock prices went up, other individuals in the white collar crime syndicate traded on those stocks. Collectively, they thus managed to rake in millions of dollars in illegal gains.

The spammers used sophisticated software to avoid detection and conducted their operations not only here in the United States but also in China and Hong Kong.

Microsoft, in particular, seemed delighted by the news of the conviction of these white collar criminals. A company spokesman remarked: “Yesterday’s sentencing is a significant success and sends a clear message that the courts take this type of illegal conduct seriously.”

As a good white collar criminal defense attorney in Southern California might note, Penal Code sections 502(c) and 530.5(e) respectively cover computer access and fraud and mail fraud. Of course, with intricate computer fraud cases like this one, the issues of law can get quite complex. For instance, to prepare for the Ralsky matter, prosecutors no doubt had to consider not just applicable federal and state laws but also international laws.

Putting together a strategic battle plan for a fraud case can get incredibly technical. Both sides must assemble complicated cause-and-affect arguments. The prosecution, for its part, has to identify the mechanisms by which the alleged fraud acts were committed — no small task, particularly when you’re dealing with sophisticated spammers and computer gurus. The defense doesn’t have it easy either. In order to combat charges of computer fraud, the defense must aptly challenge the logic of the prosecution’s arguments and cite relevant laws and cases.

If you or a family member or friend has been charged with a white collar crime, like computer fraud in Los Angeles, you may want to speak with veteran criminal defense Attorney Michael Kraut of the Kraut Criminal & DUI Lawyers. Attorney Kraut has impressive intellectual firepower — he is a graduate of Harvard Law School. He also has lots of experience “in the trenches” — he served for years as Deputy District Attorney for the City of Los Angeles prior to representing white collar defendants. He has a knack for anticipating and deftly deflating prosecutorial arguments — arguments that often leave even experienced defense attorneys confused and helpless.

With so much on the line — not just for you but also for your family — it makes sense to work with one of Southern California’s most trusted fraud defense attorneys.

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Nicholas Cage has long been one of Hollywood’s leading lights. Unfortunately, a combination of overspending and possible Los Angeles embezzlement — along with the collapse of the global markets in 2008 — has beset the A-lister with serious financial problems. nicolas-cage-picture-2.jpg

Cage will soon face off against his former business manager, Samuel Levin — the two parties have sued and countersued each other — over charges that include embezzlement in Los Angeles.

According to an AP story, Levin has accused Cage of engaging in no-holds-barred spending sprees — against his counsel — over the course of many years leading up to the banking collapse in the fall of 2008. The actor allegedly purchased 15 houses, 22 cars (including nine Rolls-Royces), a “flotilla of yachts,” a pair of European castles, a Gulfstream jet, ornate jewelry and pieces of rare art, and other “exotic items.” In addition, the actor allegedly spent lavishly on “Gatsby style” affairs at his various estates, further undermining his cash flow. Cage maintains that his business manager kept him in the dark about the state of his finances.

The legal battle between the actor and his former manager will surely soak up a great deal of media attention when it commences in February 2010.

Even an experienced white collar criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles might be challenged by a case as complex and as public as this one. An extensive investigation into financial practices, accounting ledgers, and other records may be required to build a solid defense; and it can be quite difficult — even for experienced investigative teams — to determine the “truth” about such convoluted financial situations.

Charges of embezzlement are relatively common in Hollywood, where individuals with lots of liquid cash — such as movie stars and studio heads — rely on proxies to manage their day-to-day financial operations. If someone’s convicted of embezzlement in Los Angeles, he or she can be charged with either a felony or a misdemeanor. Common punishments can include:

• forced restitution
• fines
• jail sentences
• loss of professional credentials and licensing

If you or a friend or family member has been charged with embezzlement in Southern California or a Los Angeles DUI, it may behoove you to speak with attorney Michael Kraut of the Kraut Criminal & DUI Lawyers. Attorney Kraut boasts extensive experience with white-collar crimes in Southern California. He’s worked on literally dozens of relevant cases — including a jury trial, which he argued successfully. He’s a Harvard Law School alumnus and a former prosecutor for the city of Los Angeles. He has a natural acumen for the law, and he provides each client with compassionate and proactive representation.

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Prosecutors and top rated defense attorneys faced off in court today over the allegations of sex, lies and screenplays in the David Letterman extortion case. Extortion is a serious crime. A person convicted of this offense will most likely be sent to state prison for many many years. Extortion is defined as the use of either threat of violence or some other criminal means to cause any harm, including financial, to another person or their reputation, to obtain property from someone else with their consent.

In this case, Halderman is accused of threatening to divulge personal information about Letterman that could cause harm to the entertainer’s reputation.

The case revolves around Halderman, a well known TV producer,whose wife had a long running affair with Mr. Letterman. Halderman is the accused extortionist who wrote a screenplay about Letterman’s sex life with female staffers. The case stems from Halderman, who was angry over his wife’s affair could not find any way to make his wife stop the relationship with the late night comic. Records indicate that he continually confronted his wife about ceasing the affair. She apparently apologized and committed to her relationship with Halderman. Things seemed to be mending between the couple until he found that she had not stopped the affair.

Halderman decided to take his revenge out on the keyboard. Penning a script about Letterman’s hostile work environment. Then on September 9, 2009, Halderman delivered a portion of the script, which contained changed names, to Letterman’s driver, with documents which corroborated Halderman’s facts in the script. He then gave Letterman an opportunity to buy the script rather then see it made into a movie. Halderman met two times with Letterman’s lawyers and in taped conversations in which he was recorded demanding money. Afterward, a check for $2 million was given to Halderman.

Halderman’s criminal defense attorney indicated that their client was merely selling a screenplay and by filing the charges, the prosecutors were infringing on his First Amendment right of free speech.

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As we see the beginning of a new President and Vice President for the United States, we will most likely see a new beginning for criminal prosecutions for Los Angeles DUIs and Southern California criminal law.

Already the new administration has claimed that there will be a clamp down on crime. The local administrations have also claimed that they will vigorously prosecute even minor offenses. It will not matter if you are arrested for a Los Angeles DUI, a Long Beach crime, a San Fernando robbery, or a Pasadena DUI, the police will be trying to enforce the law to the fullest. For that reason, it is important to hire a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney who has the experience and knowledge to defend you.

The new emphasis on punishment for minor offenses is going to put regular citizens in a bad position. In the past, judges and prosecutors understood that there is a clear difference between people who are law abiding but who make a mistake, and those who a repeat offenders. Now, even minor offenses are going to punished more severely.

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In a shift from a decade ago, violent crime in Los Angeles has declined for 6 straight years. Police in this Southern California city are thankful in the decrease. Others worry that the decline will reversed due to the failing economy.

Los Angeles homicides decreased about 5% from the previous year. While that number is not that impressive, the total total drop of 27% in 5 years. Law enforcement claim that the decrease is due to the severe push in gang eradication.

Violent crime has also dropped for other Southern California cities. San Diego saw a slight down turn, while San Bernardino had a 7% decrease, and Orange County also saw a drop in violent crimes

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