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A warrant has been issued for the arrest of former NFL player Jabar Gaffney, who is charged with felony criminal mischief in the vandalism of his former teammate’s BMW.

Someone slashed the tires of Lito Sheppard’s BMW and poured a contaminant into the gas tank while the car was parked outside a Jacksonville Beach restaurant June 17, causing $14,000 in damage.

Afterward, Sheppard, a former Philadelphia Eagles cornerback, sought a temporary restraining order to keep Gaffney from coming near him or his family, according to reports.

Gaffney and Sheppard, former teammates at Raines High School and later at the University of Florida, grew up in Jacksonville. Both returned to the city following their professional football careers.

In Sheppard’s petition for injunction, which he signed under oath, he said Gaffney had been threatening and harassing him, as well as damaging his personal property. He said the two have feuded in recent years because of false allegations claiming Sheppard had an affair with Gaffney’s wife.

Vandalism refers to the destruction, defacement, or damage inflicted to another’s property. Under Florida law, criminal mischief, also known as vandalism, can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the amount of damage caused. When the amount of damage to the property in question exceeds $1,000, the offense is a third degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment.

In the unfortunate event that you are facing vandalism charges, do not discuss your case with anyone. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton urge you to consider the fact that anything you say and do can be used against you in a court of law, so assert your right to remain silent. You want your attorney present before any questioning can occur.

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Some changes are coming our way in Florida. More than 100 bills that Gov. Rick Scott signed into law from the 2018 legislative session will take kick in Sunday, including a new state budget that tops $88 billion.

Take a peek at the laws slated to take effect Sunday:

State budget

HB 5001: Lawmakers passed a $88.7 billion budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. The spending plan increases public-school funding by $101.50 per student, though Democrats and many education officials have argued that a far lower amount will be available for basic school expenses.

The budget will provide $100.8 million for the Florida Forever land preservation program and offer a $130 million increase in Medicaid funding for nursing homes. Lawmakers also included $3.3 billion in reserves and put money into such issues as Everglades restoration, beach restoration, “preeminent” universities and helping universities attract “world class” faculty.

Tax package

HB 7087: A roughly $170 million tax-cut package provides relief for farmers and property owners impacted by Hurricane Irma, provides a sales-tax “holiday” in August for back-to-school shoppers and retroactively covers a disaster-preparedness tax “holiday” in early June that coincided with the start of hurricane season. The package also includes reducing a commercial lease tax from 5.8 percent to 5.7 percent, though that cut will begin Jan. 1.

Education

HB 7055: The law expands the use of voucher-like scholarships to send more public-school students to private schools. One program in the bill will let students who face bullying or harassment in public schools transfer to private schools. The so-called “hope scholarships” will be funded by motorists who voluntarily agree to contribute sales taxes they would normally pay on vehicle transactions to fund the scholarships. Among other things, the bill also boosts the Gardiner scholarship program, which pays for services and private-school scholarships for students with disabilities.

Child marriage

SB 140: The bill will largely block minors from getting married in Florida. In the past, minors ages 16 and 17 have been able to get marriage licenses with parental consent, and judges have had discretion to issue licenses to younger minors if they have children or if pregnancies are involved.

Under the change, marriage will generally be barred for people under age 18, though an exception will be in place for 17-year-olds who have written consent from their parents or guardians. Also, the 17-year-olds will not be able to marry people who are more than two years older than them.

Opioids

HB 21: With Florida facing an opioid epidemic, the measure is aimed at preventing patients from getting addicted to prescription painkillers and then turning to street drugs such as heroin and fentanyl.

The bill, in part, will place limits on prescriptions that doctors can write for treatment of acute pain. Doctors in many cases would be limited to writing prescriptions for three-day supplies, though they could prescribe up to seven-day supplies of controlled substances if “medically necessary.” Cancer patients, people who are terminally ill, palliative care patients and those who suffer from major trauma would be exempt from the limits. The bill also requires physicians or their staff members to check with a statewide database before prescribing or dispensing controlled substances.

Bethune statue

SB 472: Lawmakers approved placing a statue of civil-rights leader and educator Mary McLeod Bethune, the founder of what became Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, in the National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C.

The statue of Bethune will replace a likeness of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, who has long been one of Florida’s two representatives in the hall at the U.S. Capitol. The state’s other representative is John Gorrie, widely considered the father of air conditioning.

Slavery memorial

HB 67: The measure will lead to building a memorial on the Capitol grounds to honor the untold number of slaves in Florida history. The bill requires the Department of Management Services to develop a plan and costs for the memorial, with the plan then submitted to the governor and legislative leaders.

Daylight-saving time

SB 1013: The measure seeks to place Florida on year-round daylight-saving time. The change, promoted as a way to help Florida tourism, still needs congressional approval.

Veterans

HB 29: Named the “Don Hahnfeldt Veteran and Military Family Opportunity Act” after a House Republican who died in December, the measure expands a 2014 law by further reducing professional licensing fees and requirements for certain military members, veterans and their spouses. This bill also designates March 25 each year as “Medal of Honor Day.”

Foreign affairs

HB 545 and HB 359: One measure (HB 545) will prohibit state agencies and local governments from contracting with companies that boycott Israel. The other (HB 359) bars state agencies from investing in companies doing business with the government of Venezuela, a step intended to put pressure on the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Our Florida Drug Crimes Defense Lawyers would like to address the opioid epidemic sweeping across Florida and rest of the nation. Almost 80 people die of an opioid-related overdose daily. More than 30,000 Americans died in 2015 due to an opioid overdose. Part of the reason we are suffering from this crisis is because pharmaceutical companies push these drugs on people and doctors over prescribe them. We hope that the new bill (HB21) will help curb some of the unnecessary overdoses plaguing the country.

Opioid-related deaths and crimes have gotten significantly worse in recent years due to fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is used for extreme pain – mostly in operating rooms and hospice care. It is up to 100 times stronger than morphine and up to 50 times stronger than heroin.

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A physician and two nurses have been convicted of health care fraud in what authorities claim was a $12 million plus Medicare billing scam.

On Friday, a federal jury in Dallas convicted a 70-year-old doctor and a 47-year-old nurse of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Both were also convicted of three counts of health care fraud.

Another nurse, 42, was convicted of four counts of health care fraud.

Prosecutors believe the scheme ran from 2007 through 2015. The trio was convicted of defrauding Medicare through false claims through a home health agency and a physician house call company. Evidence showed medically unnecessary home health services were ordered and often not provided.

Sentencing is pending.

The government is aggressively cracking down on Medicare fraud throughout the country like never before. These cases usually mean the government has been investigating a clinic, doctor or facility for months, maybe even years. The government performs a hard investigation into patients’ procedures and billing to find any errors. At Whittel & Melton, our Medicare Fraud Defense Attorneys are here to protect you from the consequences of a conviction. We will help you fight Medicare fraud charges head on.

The most common types of Medicare fraud charges include:

  • False invoicing
  • Improper coding
  • Billing for medical services not provided to the patient
  • Charging for unbundled services
  • Charging for medical devices not provided
  • Billing for patients that do not exist
  • Multiple billings of the same procedure

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Todd Macaluso, a San Diego lawyer who once represented Casey Anthony, was sentenced to federal prison for 15 years for plotting to pilot a plane full of cocaine.

He was sentenced Thursday in Brooklyn federal court, months after he was found guilty of being part of an international drug ring.

Jurors deliberated for about an hour before reaching a guilty verdict in November 2017.

The 55-year-old was found guilty of agreeing to fly 1,500 kilograms of cocaine from Ecuador to Honduras aboard his Falcon 10 in 2016, prosecutors said. The plan was for Macaluso to bring the narcotics to Honduras, where Mexican traffickers would buy the drugs. He was going to get $200,000 as his flyboy fee, but he was arrested in Haiti before anything could happen.

From 2009 to 2010, Macaluso represented Anthony, a Florida mother charged with killing her 2-year-old daughter Caylee in 2008. The child’s body was never found. Anthony was acquitted in 2011.

Florida law defines cocaine trafficking as a person knowingly transporting, delivering, making, buying, selling, or actually or constructively possessing 28 grams or more of any mixture that includes cocaine. The mandatory minimum sentence depends on the weight of the cocaine that you are accused of trafficking.

In Florida, you are looking at the following consequences if convicted of trafficking cocaine:

  • 28 grams-200 grams: 3 years in prison, $50,000 fine.
  • 200 grams-400 grams: 7 years in prison, $100,000 fine.
  • 400 grams-150kg: 15 years in prison, $250,000 fine.
  • More than 150kg : Life in prison.

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A Cook County judge in the murder case against Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke has ordered a courtroom spectator who made a strange laughing sound during a hearing last Thursday to be jailed for more than five weeks and subjected to a sanity test.

The two-second outburst took place after the judge called for a recess and was stepping toward his chambers.

The judge ordered courtroom deputies to take the spectator into custody. After the hearing, the judge had him brought back out.

Standing before the judge, the man squinted and appeared confused.

The judge entered a finding of direct criminal contempt and ordered him jailed without bond until a July 10 hearing.

The judge also ordered the circuit court’s Forensic Clinical Services unit to examine the man for his fitness to stand trial and his sanity.

The man, 59, lives on Chicago’s Northwest Side. His mother, who lives in Indiana, said he has struggled with bipolar disorder since he was a teenager. She said he spent May 12-15 of this year in a hospital psychiatric unit.

Correctional staff members evaluated the man and put him in a mental-health section of the jail’s infirmary.

This Cook County judge has now jailed spectators for direct contempt during at least three of Van Dyke hearings.

Some Van Dyke proceedings, compared to other cases, have drawn large numbers of observers. The judge has warned he will not allow “mob rule” in the courtroom and has said his aim is a fair trial in this highly publicized case. At the start of each hearing, a sheriff’s deputy reads a warning from the judge against outbursts by spectators.

This case brings up the insanity defense, which most people are familiar with, but few understand how it works. A plea of insanity does not claim that the person on trial is innocent, but rather, asserts the person did commit the criminal act, but is not legally culpable for their own conduct due to poor mental health. An insanity defense varies from other defenses where if someone is found not guilty by reason of insanity, they are not released, rather they are committed to a mental institution.

Under Florida law, all people are presumed to be sane. So, the law assumes someone on trial for a crime is sane, unless that person can prove they are not. It is up to the person on trial to present “clear and convincing evidence” that they are factually not sane.

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An anonymous call to the St. Augustine police Saturday morning led to the arrest of two people on drug possession.

Police claim they responded to a parking lot on South Dixie Highway and found three people sitting in a car. The people in the car allegedly consented to a search and police say they found drug paraphernalia and a substance that field tested positive for crystal meth.

Two people, a man and a woman, were arrested on drug possession charges.

With the use of methamphetamine on the rise through the past decade, many states have enacted strict laws in an effort to decrease its production, and Florida is certainly no exception. Because of Florida’s strict drug laws, police can be particular overzealous in their arrests. Possessing even a small amount of crystal meth can lead to a felony charge that carries the very real possibility for jail time, significant fines, and a permanent stain on your record that can be a nuisance in the future in regards to education, employment, and housing opportunities.

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A Fort Myers doctor has apparently admitted to defrauding taxpayer-supported Medicare and Tricare by receiving kickbacks for prescribing certain durable medical equipment and pain medications.

The doctor pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to taking more than $470,000 in illegal payments from the supplies and pharmacy businesses between 2010 and 2016, court documents show.

Investigators say the physician paid medical supplier A&G Spinal Solutions $50,000 to put his wife on their payroll and give her 10 percent of the profit stemming from equipment referrals he made to them.

According to related court documents, two co-conspirators and managing partners in the supply business needed the money to pay a tax bill of that same amount. Both have pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme.

The physician also put together a similar arrangement with an unnamed co-conspirator to receive a share of prescription sales, according to reports.

Finally, between 2013 and 2015, the doctor allegedly received kickbacks from sales representatives and other employees to receive fees for his participation in “largely bogus” speaker event programs, the plea agreement states.

Medicare fraud charges are not uncommon in today’s times. Thousands of unsuspecting and innocent health care providers are forced to defend their actions or face serious criminal consequences every day. Many of these investigations are the result of unfair and overzealous state and federal officials. These federal agents and regulators, who specialize in health care fraud, will raid a practice and demand health care records, computers, etc. and then tell the doctors they are basically out of business. The important thing to understand is that you must assert your rights.

The best reaction you can have is to call an attorney that is skilled in health care fraud. Our Florida Medicare Fraud Defense Attorneys specialize in health care fraud and can establish a strong defense against these allegations. We understand that healthcare providers are dedicated to their line of work and deserve the most powerful defense when their integrity and actions are called into question.

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A chain of podiatry clinics in St. Louis settled with the federal government for $125,000 for Medicare fraud on false claims from 2010 to 2016.

The clinics apparently knowingly billed Medicare for medically necessary toenail removals, when the services provided were routine nail clippings that are not covered by the government insurance program for people older than 65 and others with disabilities, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The president of the company issued the following statement:

After becoming aware almost five years ago of some billing errors, we successfully worked with the government to correct this. At all times we have been, and remain in good standing with Medicare. We appreciate that the government worked constructively and cooperatively with us to resolve this matter.

The podiatry clinic has six locations in the St. Louis area: Brentwood/Clayton, Chesterfield, Creve Coeur, Shrewsbury, St. Peters and Ballwin/Valley Park.

Under the settlement, the clinic will repay the government $125,000 for the false claims. The company also signed a three-year agreement with the government for extra oversight in its compliance with Medicare regulations.

The U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Missouri announced the settlement on Monday.

Toenail care for older Americans is a common source of Medicare fraud. About one-fourth of the podiatry services paid out by Medicare are for nail debridement (removal of a diseased toenail), according to a 2002 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General.

The investigation found that nearly one-fourth of the nail debridements paid out by Medicare were not justified medically, for an estimated $51.2 million in inappropriate payments in 2000. An additional $45.6 million was paid out in unnecessary related services, according to the report.

Medicare fraud is a very serious charge that carries very real civil and criminal consequences, including stiff monetary fines and the possibility for jail time. If you are a Florida doctor, medical clinic, hospital, or even a recipient of Medicare benefits, and you have been accused of Medicare fraud, you need representation from an experienced and and qualified Medicare Fraud Defense Attorney at Whittel & Melton who is familiar with these types of cases.

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Pasco County authorities have arrested a 19-year-old man and charged him with lewd and lascivious molestation at a county library.

The man accused was a library volunteer when the incident was reported but has since been terminated.

According to a Sheriff’s Office report, a 14-year-old boy claims the man “enticed him to engage in sexual activity.”

The report also said four other juveniles were present at the time gave the same version of events.

Pasco County Libraries said Friday afternoon that a background check was completed on the man in late January and that his first shift was worked on Feb. 9.

He was dismissed from his volunteer position on May 7.

While molestation charges are very serious, especially when it involves a minor child, there are also many cases where a person is falsely accused of a crime they did not commit. Sadly, false accusations are quite common and can wreak havoc on the life of the individual who has been wrongly accused.

If you have been arrested or accused of a sex crime you did not commit, you need to speak with a sex crimes attorney right away. Your reputation and future are at stake, and our Pasco County Sex Crimes Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton do not take false accusations lightly. We are dedicated to aggressively defending those accused of sex crimes so that they can avoid the harsh consequences of a conviction.

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Sarasota County deputies arrested 81 people on drug-related charges in an investigation called “Operation Spring Cleaning” on May 4.

Deputies said they confiscated more than 18 pounds of controlled substances and four firearms.

Out of the 81 people arrested, 77 were drug traffickers, according to reports. The investigation focused on drug manufacturing, delivering, and trafficking of “highly abused controlled substances,” such as Fentanyl.

Florida’s medical examiners reported 704 people died of Fentanyl-related overdoses in the first half of 2016 which led to the passing of enhanced penalties for drug dealers and traffickers as seen in Florida House Bill 477.

Operation Spring Cleaning focused on capturing sales and trafficking related to highly abused controlled substances.

A recent investigation into Fentanyl-related deaths shows an increase of 97 percent in Palm Beach County in 2016, and that West Palm Beach is an “epicenter” for opioid overdoses.

In the past few years, you may have read about more and more cases in Florida that involve fentanyl overdoses. Fentanyl is a Schedule II synthetic opioid drug that is about 75 times stronger than morphine. Even just trace amounts of fentanyl absorbed through the skin or inhaled can be lethal.

Florida statutes implement the following mandatory minimum penalties for trafficking in fentanyl:

  • 4 grams or more, but less than 14 grams: mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 3 years and a fine of $50,000
  • 14 grams or more, but less than 28 grams: mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 15 years and a fine of $100,000
  • 28 grams or more: mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 25 years and a fine of $500,000

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