Articles Posted in Pasco County

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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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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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A former Pasco County School District transportation manager was sentenced to life in prison in federal court for sexually assaulting children and producing and distributing child pornography.

In August, the 35-year-old New Port Richey man pleaded guilty to enticing and coercing a minor to engage in sexual activity and to possessing child porn.

After statements were delivered and counsel was heard, the judge delivered the man’s sentence.

Court documents described the man as having a deeply embedded preference for sex with children that “descended to depths of depravity that are hard to fathom and that he’s a constant threat to society.”

The man began his career with Pasco schools as a school bus driver and worked his way up to the district’s transportation manager.

According to the plea agreement, beginning in 2014, the man, while employed by Pasco County Schools as a transportation manager, knowingly enticed a 15-year-old student from a local school to engage in sex acts.

Officials said the man had met the teen on the app Grindr.

The man engaged in a sexual relationship with the student that went on for several years. Officials said during that time, the man invited the student to view his collection of child pornography, invited him to watch live productions of child porn on the internet, and invited him to engage in group sex with other adults and minors.

The man also produced and distributed child porn of the student, according to the plea agreement.

Investigators said the man also had a close relationship with a Pasco County assistant principal. Officials said the two men would share child porn.

The government will review the man’s case in a few years under what’s called a Rule 35. That could determine whether he may be eligible for a parole at some point in the future.

After a person has been sentenced, there are several circumstances that could reduce the sentence. A direct appeal can be filed or the prosecution can file a motion pursuant to Rule 35(b) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure to reward the person for providing substantial assistance in investigating or prosecuting another person.

Only the prosecution may file a Rule 35 motion, however, a criminal defense lawyer’s role in the process is substantial. Our Pasco County Criminal Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can help make sure your are rewarded properly for the assistance provided. Our goal is to interest the prosecution in what you have to offer, ensure that the cooperation goes smoothly, and that the desired outcome is mutually achieved.  

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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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The Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrested a Dade City man for allegedly possessing hundreds of files of child pornography and possibly accessing thousands more.

A Pasco County Sheriff’s Office arrest report states investigators found 274 suspected child porn files on the man’s laptop. They allegedly reviewed 22 of those files and found graphic videos, some involving children younger than five years old, engaged in sex acts.

An IP address linked to the man’s home also may have allegedly accessed child pornography files at least 2,529 times in October and 18,779 times in March.

According to the report, the man admitted to downloading such files since he was 17 years old.

The man is charged with 21 counts of possession of child pornography and one count of transmission of child pornography.

He’s currently in jail on $1.1 million bond.

A conviction of child pornography can be devastating to your personal life and career. The number of images, type of pictures and the ages of the alleged children are factored into the charges and sentencing guidelines. You could be looking at years, decades or even life behind bars for each image in question and a permanent stamp on the sex offender registry.

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Two 19-year-old boys have been charged in an alleged holiday crime spree.

Pasco deputies claim the two teens went on a crime spree over the late hours of Christmas Eve and Christmas night in the Zephyrhills area.

The two 19-year-old’s are accused of burglarizing vehicles and stealing money, personal items, firearms, ammunition, and other items from victims.

Investigators claim they recovered several guns, ammo, narcotics, drug paraphernalia, and stolen property items from the suspects.

The teens were arrested and charged with over 18 felony offenses related to the holiday crime spree.

Authorities said further investigation may lead to additional charges and suspects.

Theft crimes usually increase over the holiday season. If you are facing criminal prosecution, you could be dealing with serious life consequences. You could be looking at years behind bars, a permanent stain on your criminal record, fines and other punishments.

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A woman has been arrested in Pasco County after allegedly renting out homes she didn’t own.

Authorities said the 43-year-old was arrested for scheming to defraud after allegedly pretending to be the owner of two homes — one in Holiday and the other in New Port Richey.

According to reports, she was renting out the property for $800-$850 a month.

The actual owner of the property was apparently unaware of this transaction.

The woman also had active felony warrants for grand theft and unlicensed real estate broker or sales associate in Hillsborough County.

There are many reasons why good, normally upstanding people end up facing fraud or other white collar crimes charges. Whatever the reason, our Pasco County White Collar Criminal Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton have one goal, which is to defend you against the charges. This means investigating your case thoroughly and presenting the strongest case possible to help you get back to leading a normal life.

We represent people throughout the state of Florida that are under investigation or facing formal state or federal charges for a wide range of white collar crimes, including:

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Creepy clowns have been making headlines across the nation, and Florida is no stranger to this creepy craze.

Pasco County deputies are on alert for a creepy clown.

Authorities believe the clowns have been spotted in Hudson, Port Richey, and Holiday. The county’s school district sent out a robo call and a post on Facebook Friday telling parents there was a threat posted on Facebook and Twitter about the creepy clowns showing up at schools.

Pinellas County schools had two similar incidents Friday where a clown was spotted outside schools. Pinellas County, however, isn’t considering this as a credible threat.

In Pasco County, authorities said the sightings are quite sinister. In one instance, investigators said someone dressed as a clown and friended young people on Facebook, then asked one kid to meet in the park after dark.

There have been other cases nationwide involving people dressed as clowns, some of them scarier than others. If you encounter one, especially near a school, you’re asked to contact authorities.

While some people find this clown craze funny, at the end of the day, unless you are headed to your job at the circus/fair/birthday party, do not dress up as a clown. Even if you think it is fun and you have zero intentions of hurting anyone, police have made it very clear they will arrest and charge people.

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A New York man is accused of traveling to New Port Richey to have sex with a 13-year-old girl.

On Tuesday night, at approximately 11 p.m., Pasco deputies were dispatched to the girl’s home in reference to an unwanted guest complaint.

The caller advised that his wife found a 21-year-old man in the bedroom closet of his 13-year-old daughter.

The man, 21, apparently told detectives he traveled from Staten Island, New York to New Port Richey by train to visit the teen.  

The detective allegedly discovered the man had numerous nude photos of the victim on his cell phone.

Detectives arrested the man for lewd and lascivious battery, traveling to meet a minor and possession of child pornography.

According to the arrest report, the man told detectives he met the girl three years ago online and started “dating” her a year ago. He apparently told detectives he was unaware that the girl was 13.  

The man was booked into the Land O’ Lakes Detention Center on $25,000 bond.

If you have been accused of traveling to meet a minor for sex, it is important to speak with a Pasco County Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton as soon as possible. Do not wait as these charges are very serious. You could face up to 15 years in prison and lifetime registration as a sex offender.

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