Published on:

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.

Continue reading

Published on:

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.

Continue reading

Published on:

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.

Continue reading

Published on:

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.

Continue reading

Published on:

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.

Continue reading

Published on:

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.

Continue reading

Published on:

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

Continue reading

Published on:

The Department of Justice recently announced that a Las Vegas medical practice will pay $1.5 million to settle allegations that they violated the False Claims Act through illegal billing.

The settlement involved allegations that from January 1, 2006 through May 31, 2011, the practice violated the False Claims Act by billing federal healthcare programs, including Medicare and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, for surgical services that were never actually rendered to its cardiac patients.

The allegations further state that the practice billed for more expensive surgical, evaluation and management services than were provided.

No liability has been determined in this case.

The second case comes from suburban Illinois where a physician has been indicted on federal fraud charges for allegedly receiving almost $1 million in Medicare and private insurer payments for services that apparently never happened.

The physician is the subject of a 12-count indictment alleging that he submitted fraudulent claims for medical tests and examinations that were never performed, as well as used some patients’ names without their knowledge to submit fraudulent claims, according to the DOJ. The indictment claims that from 2008 to 2013, the physician fraudulently obtained, or caused his clinic to obtain, at least $950,000 in payments from Medicare and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois.

The man is charged with seven counts of healthcare fraud, three counts of making false statements in relation to a healthcare matter, and two counts of aggravated identity theft.  

Health care providers and institutions have a wide range of rules and guidelines they must abide by. Many people forget that these facilities are businesses and must operate as so while providing medical care to patients. Because of ever changing criminal laws and extensive regulations and civil statutes, we have seen an upward rise of doctors, hospitals and medical professionals subject to allegations of health care fraud in the recent years.

Prosecutors actively pursue health care providers who allegedly lie about the number of patients they treat or the types of services they perform, as well as for referring patients to a facility in which the physicians have a hidden financial interest. On that same note, a doctor who receives payment from a company whose medical products they use could potentially face federal prosecution if the payment is used as a kickback or bribe to keep the doctor using the product in question. Medical device distributors and manufacturers can also find themselves under fire for healthcare fraud in these situations. The reality is that there are a plethora of potential pitfalls that plague health care workers and providers on a daily basis.

If you have found yourself ensnared in a federal health care or Medicare fraud investigation, let our Florida Medicare Fraud Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton guide you through what to expect. We handle civil and criminal health care fraud matters throughout the state of Florida.

Continue reading

Published on:

Former Alachua County Manager Lee Niblock was booked on a misdemeanor battery charge in Collier County early Thursday evening, according to reports.

Niblock, 64, is charged with a misdemeanor battery in Marco Island — a city of 16,000 — where he was city manager for about three months following his termination in August 2017. Before he came to Alachua County, Niblock was Marion County’s manager.

According to the investigation, Niblock is accused of attempting to kiss and touch a woman after offering her a $140,000-a-year job that he created.

Gainesville police issued a sworn complaint in late March to the State Attorney’s office also recommending to charge Niblock with battery, detailing similar allegations.

Niblock was fired last month from his new job in Marco Island, for what the city council determined unethical behavior. He had a salary of $185,000.

According to the report released Thursday, Niblock met with a principal and her supervisor to discuss possible repairs to a baseball facility.

The two told law enforcement that Niblock, just one month on the job, made inappropriate comments and behaved oddly during the meeting. He commented on the principal’s appearance, saying her looks were distracting, and then proceeded to talk about a pair of open city positions.

The next day, investigators said, Niblock began texting the principal. He later offered to take her to dinner to discuss city and school business and insisted on picking her up, the report said. Investigators said Niblock attempted to recruit the principal for a newly created director of communications and government affairs position with a salary range of $92,000 to $118,000.

The principal claims the man behaved inappropriately during dinner and insisted on paying and said she could repay him with a kiss.

On the ride home, the report said Niblock attempted to touch the woman’s hand twice and that she pulled away. The report said he then grabbed her for a hug, then attempted to kiss her on the lips.

The woman told investigators the kissing and touching was unwanted. She said Niblock texted her seven times after the dinner and got no response, including sending her a link to WebMD, the report said.

In the weeks that followed, the woman told investigators, she began hearing rumors about Niblock bad mouthing her.

According to the GPD complaint, Niblock is being accused of battery, a first-degree misdemeanor, stemming from a June 2017 incident that involved a different woman in Gainesville and a “future job opportunity.”

There are a few different types of battery charges in Florida. In its simplest form, battery involves an unwanted or uninvited touching or striking to another person. The penalties for battery charges can be severe even if it is a misdemeanor offense. The good news is that there are many viable options for a battery defense under Florida law. Our Alachua County Criminal Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can help you determine which defense might be available for your situation.

Simple battery is a first degree misdemeanor. The possible penalties include up to one year in jail or 12 months of probation. Fines up to $1,000 are also common.

Continue reading

Published on:

A 27-year-old Sorrento man was arrested on child pornography charges Friday, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The man was booked into the Lake County Jail with bail set at $50,000, the FDLE said.

According to an agency spokeswoman, agents began investigating the man in February after determining suspected child-porn files had been downloaded through an IP address associated with his house.

Agents apparently searched the house, allegedly finding at least 10 files of child pornography on his laptop. At least one of the files depicted a child younger than 5, according to reports. The laptop was seized for a more-thorough search.

The man will be prosecuted by the Office of Statewide Prosecution.

The Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution is directed by the Florida Constitution to prosecute crimes that impact two or more judicial circuits in the State of Florida. Working regularly with state and federal counterparts, the office focuses on complex, often large scale, organized criminal activity.

If you are under investigation for child pornography, our Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton urge you to refrain from speaking to law enforcement until you have spoken with us. Anything you say or do prior to an actual arrest can be used against you in a court of law. Federal investigators are highly trained to gather confessions from those accused of sex crimes, such as child pornography. Standard protocol for police is to locate suspects and make a surprise visit to request an interview. We want you to know you have rights and can politely decline their request to discuss these matters until legal counsel is present.

Continue reading

Contact Information