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A federal jury found the owner of a Tampa Bay area medical marketing company guilty on Thursday for his role in a $2.2 million-plus Medicare fraud scheme involving the payment of kickbacks and bribes to medical clinics in Miami in exchange for the referral of DNA swabs that were obtained from Medicare beneficiaries.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez of the Middle District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge Michael McPherson of the FBI’s Tampa Field Office and Assistant Inspector General Shimon Richmond of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Miami Regional Office made the announcement.

After a four-day trial, the 49-year-old Land o’ Lakes man and owner of DBL Management LLC was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to pay health care kickbacks and one count of structuring currency transactions to avoid reporting requirements.  

The man is expected to be sentenced Oct. 2 by U.S. District Judge Susan C. Bucklew of the Middle District of Florida, who presided over the trial.

According to the evidence presented at trial, the man was paid by Clinical Laboratory Company A for each DNA swab that he arranged to be referred to the laboratory.  In order to obtain DNA swabs, the man paid cash kickbacks and bribes to medical clinics in Miami in exchange for the referral of DNA swabs that were obtained from Medicare beneficiaries. The man directed the owners of the medical clinics to collect the DNA of all of the patients at the clinics, regardless of medical necessity.

In the first phase of the scheme, from November 2013 to May 2014, the evidence at trial showed that the man paid these cash kickbacks directly.  In the second phase of the scheme, from May 2014 to November 2014, after his arrest on other charges, the man established shell companies, including Healthcare Marketing Florida of Melbourne, and conspired with nominee owners to facilitate the payment of kickbacks, receipt of fraud proceeds, and transfer of unlawfully obtained DNA samples for medically unnecessary testing.  Over the course of the entire conspiracy, Clinical Laboratory Company A submitted more than $2.2 million in genetic testing claims and paid the man a percentage of the Medicare reimbursements that it received.

The evidence at trial showed that, in order to conceal his payment of illegal cash kickbacks, the man would travel to different ATMs and bank branches throughout southern Florida and make separate withdrawals of thousands of dollars in cash in order to avoid the filing of U.S. Department of Treasury “currency transaction reports” for an individual withdrawal of more than $10,000.

The man was previously found guilty by a jury in December 2015 of various health care fraud, money laundering and identity theft charges in a case handled by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.  

He is currently serving 14 years in prison.

The state of Florida, along with every other state, is constantly looking for ways to bring in additional revenue and to cut the rapidly growing costs of Medicare and Medicaid programs, which is why they are going to such great lengths to uncover potential Medicaid and Medicare fraud and abuse cases. 

In the majority of cases, Medicare fraud involves using false information to obtain unauthorized benefits, and can take a variety of forms, but it typically involves defrauding the Medicare system through billing for services that were not provided or that were not provided as described. Medicare beneficiaries are sometimes involved in fraud schemes where they split the Medicare or Medicaid funds with another party for care that was not provided.

A number of programs exist at both the state and federal level to uncover and prosecute cases of Medicare fraud by patients, providers, insurers, or owners of a company in the healthcare industry. 

Medicare and Medicaid costs the federal government between $80 and $100 billion each year, so government investigators make it their top priority to constantly be on the lookout for any red flags. The Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) is one tool that the government uses to prosecute actions of fraud. The AKC makes it a crime to give or receive bribes or kickbacks in exchange for patient referrals. 

The penalties for violating the AKS are very serious. The AKS is a criminal statute, and a conviction equates to a felony. A conviction under the AKS can lead to five years in prison and fines of $25,000 per violation. The government can also seek hefty financial penalties of $50,000 for each violation of the AKS.

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The former mayor of Port Richey, Dale Massad, was found guilty Tuesday of conspiracy to obstruct justice.

The jury’s verdict came at about 6 p.m. at the end of a one-day trial in which four witnesses testified. The jury took less than an hour to decide on the evidence.

Massad, 68, faced multiple charges from his February arrest, but the ones at issue Tuesday stemmed from a jailhouse phone call with former acting Mayor Terrence Rowe.

The state tried to prove that call showed Massad targeted a Port Richey police officer involved with his case.

Investigators claim that Massad called the man who filled his spot as mayor, Terrance Rowe, from jail and the two conspired to have a Port Richey police officer involved in Massad’s case fired.

The police officer testified that he felt threatened and intimidated by Massad. 

The police officer had helped the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigate Massad’s alleged practice of medicine without a license, and he was the one monitoring his calls for the agency.

Massad’s defense team argued that there was no clear evidence of conspiracy to intimidate the police officer in the call, including when the former mayor told Rowe that “anything he can do” where the police officer is concerned was good.

The call lasted 14 minutes. It took the jury about 50 minutes to convict Massad of obstruction of justice and unlawful use of a two-way communications device. 

Jurors also heard from City Manager Vince Lupo, who testified that council members usually made records requests through him.

The state argued that because Rowe made repeated email requests to the city clerk instead of Lupo, he was trying to avoid the normal process.

Police Chief Gerard Decanio said the jury made the right call.

“To think that you’re going to call from jail and order certain things to be done, it’s ridiculous,” Decanio said. “So justice prevailed today. The jury brought back the right verdict.”

Massad’s attorney, however, believes the jury should have come back with the opposite verdict. The defense team believes city officials wanted him out as mayor, and that they unfortunately succeeded. 

Massad’s legal team requested a speedy trial in the hopes that they would win and Massad could post bond. They are now working to expedite the prosecution for the original charges.

This was only the tip of Massad’s legal problems. He still faces trial on charges of attempted murder and practicing medicine without a license.

Massad will continue to be held in jail without bail, pending his next trials. However, Tuesday’s conviction could result in prison time. 

At the first Port Richey City Council meeting since the city elected its new mayor, Scott Tremblay, it was business as usual, with no comments about the Massad trial during the first few minutes of the session.

Tremblay did say he’s looking forward to helping the city move forward, despite two other trials involving Massad looming over the city’s near future.  

Conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges are nothing to scoff at. These crimes are nothing minor. In fact, these are felony offenses that can negatively impact one’s freedom, life, and livelihood. A person commits the crime of obstruction by engaging in any act or behavior that interferes with the investigation or prosecution of a crime. Both state and federal laws have many provisions written in regarding obstruction of justice for many different laws, but such actions can range from simply warning someone about a subpoena for documents to hiding a suspect from police. Certain types of interference may seem innocent, such as warning a co-worker that they are being investigated, while others cross the legal line more blatantly, like destroying evidence. The greater the obstruction of justice, the greater the criminal consequences. 

Even a person who is not directly involved in a crime that is under investigation can be charged with criminal obstruction. These charges are not necessarily black and white, and can be quite confusing. If you have been charged with criminal obstruction or have questions about the crime, consult with our Pasco County Criminal Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton who can make sure you fully understand what you are up against. 

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A University of Florida junior cornerback was arrested by Gainesville police Monday and is facing a charge of simple battery/date violence following an alleged altercation with his girlfriend in his apartment.

The man and the woman got into an argument, and as she attempted to leave the apartment, the man apparently grabbed her by the neck to stop her, according to a Gainesville Police Department arrest report. Police claims she had marks on her neck and a scratch on her shoulder.

The man, 20, and the woman have been dating for two years, according to the report. A witness to the incident intervened in an effort to stop the argument and then called 911.

A simple battery charge is a misdemeanor under Florida law.

A battery charge can be emotionally fueled by the alleged victim and the person charged. These arrests usually arise from situations that are personal and highly emotional, and often involve misunderstandings that were blown out of proportion.

If you have been arrested for battery in Gainesville, our Alachua County Criminal Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are here to help. Possible penalties can include jail time, fines, and a criminal record. We can help you avoid the penalties of a conviction. When possible, we will negotiate for a reduction or a complete dismissal of charges.

Regardless of the events leading up to your arrest, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to defend your rights against your accuser. We will investigate all of the facts of your case and present your side to prosecutors and in court, when necessary.

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Alachua County Sheriff’s deputies arrested a Gators football staff member accused of cyberstalking his ex-girlfriend.

Investigators charged the 51-year-old man, who is the assistant director of player personnel for UF football, with felony aggravated stalking in a string of incidents dating back to April 14.

An arrest report says the man and his ex broke up on April 14. Following the breakup, a report allegedly says the man sent over 40 messages through phone, text and Facebook.

On April 21, the ex apparently requested that the man stop contacting her. Deputies claim he refused and even left a voicemail on her phone stating he would “blow up her car.”

According to the report, the man is accused of sending multiple vulgar messages to her through a different phone after she requested he stop contacting her.

Prosecutors view cyberstalking crimes as serious because of the concern that these crimes will escalate into more violent ones. If you think you are under investigation for a cyberstalking crime or have already been arrested, our Alachua County Criminal Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton urge you to contact us as soon as possible so we can evaluate your charges and explain your potential options.

Cyberstalking can result in severe penalties such as jail time and fines. While most cyberstalking crimes are often charged as misdemeanors, the charges can be elevated to a felony in certain situations.

Cyberstalking can include:

  • Making criminal threats
  • Making false accusations
  • Encouraging bullying and humiliation of a user
  • Sending harassing emails or messages

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A former U.S. postal worker was sentenced to 120 days in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute marijuana.

The 45-year-old was also ordered to serve a three-year term of supervised release following his imprisonment, the Department of Justice said Tuesday.

According to court documents, the former U.S. Postal carrier provided addresses along his delivery route to co-conspirators who arranged to have packages containing marijuana shipped from Oregon to those addresses.

When the packages arrived and were placed in the man’s control, he would scan the packages as delivered to the addresses, and then turn them over to his co-conspirators for further distribution of the marijuana.

He pleaded guilty to the charge on January 11.

Drug conspiracy and distribution charges are quite serious criminal matters that could lead to jail or prison time in addition to other life-changing consequences. If you or someone you love has been charged or is being investigated for conspiracy or distribution of drugs, it is essential to obtain strong legal representation as soon as possible. Our Florida Drug Crimes Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton also urge those accused to refrain from speaking to law enforcement officers about the case until you have secured legal counsel.

Generally speaking, a conspiracy charge means that the prosecution is trying to hold you responsible for the criminal actions of someone else. These charges can erupt from allegedly planning or agreeing to sell an illegal substance. Because no actual crime has to occur to be charged, these cases can be built with very weak evidence.

Our Florida Drug Crimes Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are former prosecutors who are very familiar with the State’s tricks when pursuing drug conspiracy cases. While every situation is different, we can evaluate your case and develop the best defense with the greatest chance of success.

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17 people have been arrested in connection to a seven-month-long drug investigation, which resulted in the bust of an alleged major drug trafficking organization.

The investigation, which began in September of 2018, allegedly found a significant drug trafficking hub operating out of 1804 South Forbes Road in Plant City.

Over the past several years, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has responded to more than 100 calls of service to that location, the report stated.

According to the sheriff’s office, the investigation involved numerous undercover purchases of methamphetamines, totaling 1,840.1 grams and $27,700 in cash seizures.

The charges range from conspiracy to traffic amphetamine to possession of methamphetamine.

When you are facing federal drug trafficking charges, you may be coming up against the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the FBI, or another federal agency that will absolutely be a fierce opponent when it comes to drug charges. Drug trafficking is one of the most serious types of drug crimes. A conviction for a federal drug crime will result in harsher penalties, which can possibly include years in prison or even life in prison. Whether you are charged with transporting, distributing, or selling large amounts of drugs, our Florida Drug Crimes Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are ready to fight for you.

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The Justice Department announced charges against 24 people across the U.S., including doctors accused of writing bogus prescriptions for unneeded back, shoulder, wrist and knee braces.

Others charged included owners of call centers, telemedicine firms and medical equipment companies.

The Health and Human Services inspector general’s office said the alleged scam morphed into multiple related schemes, fueled by kickbacks among the parties involved. The FBI, the IRS, and 17 U.S. attorney’s offices took part in the crackdown. Arrests were made Tuesday morning.

Medicare’s anti-fraud unit said it’s taking action against 130 medical equipment companies implicated. They allegedly billed the program a total of $1.7 billion, of which more than $900 million was paid out.

Telemarketers would apparently reach out to seniors offering “free” orthopedic braces, also advertised through television and radio ads. Beneficiaries who expressed interest would be patched through to call centers involved in the alleged scheme. Officials described an “international telemarketing network” with call centers in the Philippines and throughout Latin America.

The call centers would verify seniors’ Medicare coverage and transfer them to telemedicine companies for consultations with doctors.

The doctors would allegedly write prescriptions for orthopedic braces, regardless of whether the patients needed them or not. In some cases several braces were prescribed for the same patient.

The call centers would collect prescriptions and sell them to medical equipment companies, which would ship the braces to beneficiaries and bill Medicare. Medical equipment companies would get $500 to $900 per brace from Medicare and would pay kickbacks of nearly $300 per brace.

The alleged scam was detected last summer, officials said. Complaints from beneficiaries were pouring in to the Medicare fraud hotline, and some consumer news organizations warned seniors.

Officials said it’s one of the biggest frauds the inspector general’s office has seen. Charges were being brought against defendants in California, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas.

Medicare is a federal health care program that provides insurance benefits to seniors. Nationally, over 50 million people receive Medicare benefits. Due to Medicare fraud increasing in recent years, federal investigators and prosecutors have been on the hunt for anyone suspected of Medicare fraud. Whether it was the result of an intentional plan, an oversight, or the actions of your staff and/or employee, being charged with Medicare fraud can wreak havoc on your life. Medicare fraud is a serious crime that may result in several years in federal prison, along with significant fines and a permanent criminal record.

Being charged with Medicare fraud can be frightening and overwhelming. Federal charges must be handled by a lawyer who has experience in this specific field. Our Florida Medicare Fraud Attorneys at Whittel & Melton have the knowledge and skill you need to bring a powerful defense against the health care fraud charges you face.

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A man is accused of flashing a woman and slapping her behind while she was walking to meet her boyfriend at a DeLand pub early Sunday, according to an arrest report.

The 27-year-old man is now facing a charge of indecent exposure and battery in relation to the incident, reports show.

According to the report, the woman was walking through the alley behind the pub around 1 a.m. when the man allegedly approached her and pulled out his genitals.

The man allegedly asked the woman to touch him and he slapped her behind when she refused.

The man allegedly followed the woman to the front door of the pub, at which point the woman’s boyfriend confronted him, the report states.

Police booked the man into the Volusia County Jail, where he’s being held in lieu of $5,000 bail.

Indecent exposure is actually a very serious crime and must be dealt with accordingly. While most of us know not to expose ourselves in public, when alcohol is thrown in the mix, all good judgement goes out the window. When this illegal conduct does happen, those accused deserve the best legal representation possible to fight and defend against the criminal charge.

Indecent exposure is not a minor infraction where a fine can be paid and the accused can move on with their life. An indecent exposure charge can actually cost you a lot more in fines and potential jail time. Because of this, the sooner you speak with a Volusia County Criminal Defense Attorney at Whittel & Melton, the better able you will be to fight the criminal charge.

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A former Bradenton police officer allegedly used local and state law enforcement databases to look for women to date and have sex with, according to reports.

An investigation by the Bradenton Police Department allegedly revealed that the former police officer targeted women, using his position to approach them for dates. He is accused of having sex with some of them, even while on duty.

By law, the databases are only supposed to be used for official police business.

The 12-year veteran of the force was pulled from patrol duty, placed on administrative leave without pay and stripped of his badge, gun and uniform. He resigned on October 30.

Bradenton police referred a criminal investigation to the FBI, which is spearheading its own inquiry.

Police uncovered the man’s alleged scheme after a woman and her parents filed a complaint last June.

The former officer had met the woman in the parking lot of a local store, and followed her most of the way home in his police car. He knocked on the door of her parents’ house and told them he wanted to speak with their daughter about a “domestic matter,” according to reports.

Her parents refused the request, and asked for the man’s name and his supervisor’s information.

The woman’s parents called the Bradenton Police Department, where a watch commander told them the man was the officer on duty at the time. The parents explained he’d followed their daughter home because she had a headlight out.

When the two stories did not add up, the department launched an investigation.

Investigators searched the man’s use of the state’s Driver and Vehicle Information Database.

They apparently found “several hundred” of the man’s search queries in the department’s database diverged sharply from the “open and active cases” he and law enforcement colleagues were working on as part of official duties.

The BPD’s internal investigation revealed his alleged behavior stretched back as far as 2012.

The department identified 150 women it believed were associated with the case.

He allegedly used the database information to reach out to the women with social media, phone calls or visits to their homes to “try and get dates with these women.”

Investigators believe the man committed numerous administrative violations, including having sex on duty. The Bradenton police declined to publicly issue the results of its internal investigation, as the man could be subject to criminal charges.

If you know that you are under investigation for an alleged crime, you do not need to wait to be charged or arrested to take defensive action. Our Manatee County Criminal Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can help you conduct a pre-file investigation if you are aware that law enforcement is investigating you. Just know that if you are being investigated for a crime, you have the legal right to be represented by a criminal defense lawyer.

When we conduct a pre-file investigation, we can start mounting a defense before you are even charged. We urge you to contact us as soon as possible so that you do not risk incriminating yourself. During a police pre-file investigation, you must invoke your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent rather than volunteering information that can damage your case.

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Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents arrested the city of Port Richey’s acting mayor Terrence Hagan Rowe, 64, on Wednesday charging him with obstruction of justice, conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice, and use of a two-way communications device to facilitate the commission of a crime.

According to the agency, agents received information that Rowe was conspiring to interfere with an active criminal investigation.

Rowe has served as Port Richey’s acting mayor since the previous mayor, Dale Glen Massad, was arrested in February following an incident where he allegedly fired a weapon at Pasco County Sheriff’s Office deputies at his home to serve a warrant.

Rowe was transported to the Pasco County Jail on a $15,000 bond. Rowe posted bond overnight.

Obstruction of justice is not a minor offense. It is actually a felony offense that can have serious implications on your freedom, life, and livelihood. The crime embodies numerous behaviors, including providing false information to a police officer, concealing material relevant to a prosecution, or destroying or disguising physical information.

If you have been charged with obstruction of justice, you need to obtain a criminal defense lawyer right away to make sure your rights are protected. Due to the severity of this offense, you need to act fast as you could be facing years in prison plus hefty fines. Our Pasco County Criminal Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can piece together a strong defense against these charges or work to obtain a favorable plea deal without jail time.

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