State employee charged with bribery in Medicare fraud case

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Health care fraud is becoming one of the largest categories of white collar crimes across the country, and Florida is no different. To see an example, one need only look at a recent case where an employee of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration federal criminal charges for allegedly accepting bribes from a wealthy nursing home owner.

The suspect is a 29-year-old female employee of the state agency that regulates nursing homes. She was paid $31,300 per year to oversee inspections at state-regulated nursing homes. According to federal authorities, she is alleged to have accepted bribes from a nursing home operator to provide advance warning of state inspections and potential violations of the laws and regulations that apply to nursing homes. She is also alleged to have provided confidential patient information to the nursing home operator. The criminal complaint alleges that she accepted tens of thousands of dollars from the nursing home owner for providing this information. The state employee is apparently the first person to be accused of accepting bribes.

The nursing home owner allegedly used the information to stay one step ahead of regulators. He was able to fix violations before inspectors arrived at his facilities and thereby keep his nursing home licenses from being revoked or suspended. The owner is facing separate federal criminal charges for overbilling Medicare and Medicaid for approximately $1 billion between 2009 and 2016.

The accusations in this case are very serious. If convicted, the defendant faces years of incarceration, a large fine, and payment of restitution. Anyone facing similar charges could benefit from asking an experienced criminal defense attorney to review the evidence and law that will determine the outcome of the case. The possibility of obtaining a favorable plea bargain or an outright acquittal may be possible depending on the circumstances. In either case, an accused individual may want to have a competent legal ally on his or her side.

Source: WTOP, "Florida health care admin charged in $1B Medicare fraud case," July 29, 2017

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