Articles Posted in Pinellas County

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Five Tampa Bay area residents are facing charges due to an alleged  billion-dollar telemedicine scheme.

Starting in 2015, the men and their pharmacy companies are accused of setting up an elaborate scheme that fraudulently solicited insurance coverage information and prescriptions from tens of thousands of consumers across the country, according to a 40-page indictment. They then are accused of using the information to sell pain creams and other similar products.

Doctors apparently approved the prescriptions not knowing that the men and their companies had “massively marked up the prices” of the invalidly prescribed drugs, federal prosecutors said. For instance, several of the pharmacies paid $27 for a lidocaine numbing ointment and billed up to $381, an increase of more than 1,300 percent.

Police allege the men “directed their employees to ‘test bill’ or ‘phish’ for the highest reimbursement items” to ensure the most profit. According to the indictment, “These employees routinely submitted claims … for this purpose, contrary to one of more provider agreements.”

Federal prosecutors believe the alleged scheme bilked $174 million from private health care companies, including Blue Cross Blue Shield. In addition, the five men and their companies allegedly submitted at least $931 million in fraudulent claims.

The five men and their companies face a total of 32 counts. All four men were charged with mail fraud, conspiracy to commit health care fraud and introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce. If convicted, they face up to 20 years in prison for each mail fraud charge, up to 10 years for each conspiracy charge and up to three years for the third charge. They and their companies could also be required to forfeit up to $154 million.

Last week, four of the men were released on bond after appearing in a federal courtroom in Tampa’s Middle District of Florida. The indictment was filed in the Eastern District of Tennessee.

The fifth man charged has already pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy for his role in the case, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tennessee.

He also pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud in a separate case.

While the man faces up to 5 years in prison for each conspiracy charge, helping federal prosecutors with the case against the other men could help reduce his sentence.

At Whittel & Melton, our Tampa Bay area Health Care Fraud Defense Attorneys handle criminal cases in Tampa and throughout the U.S. We represent health care practitioners, including doctors, nurse practitioners, therapists, clinics, hospitals, providers of medical equipment and billing companies facing criminal charges with the federal government, including:

  • Overbilling for services
  • Billing for services or tests not rendered
  • Prescribing unnecessary or additional services in order to bill more
  • Incorrectly reporting diagnoses, treatments or procedures to increase payments
  • Unbundling billed services
  • Using false billing codes
  • Submitting duplicate claims
  • Changing dates, services or names of patients on claims
  • Altering medical records or reports
  • Referral kickbacks or self-referrals

Health care fraud may be investigated by the FBI, the state Attorney General’s office, U.S. Postal Service or the Office of the Inspector General. Regardless of what department your case is being pursued by, we can apply the best possible defense strategy with the hopes of securing the best possible outcome.

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Pinellas County deputies have been on a mission to arrest contractors accused of operating without licenses.

In a sting conducted from Saturday through early Monday called “Operation Flush Out,” 30 people were arrested after pitching electrical, drywall and other construction services to undercover detectives.

The three-day sting produced a combination of at least 60 felony and misdemeanor charges against people offering to work without a license or insurance, the sheriff said.

It is the sheriff’s third sting since October to combat the hundreds of unlicensed contractors who rip off homeowners and leave properties in shambles.

Contracting without a license carries a misdemeanor for first-time offenses and a felony the second time. Other violations include felony charge of workers’ compensation fraud. Florida law requires contractors in the construction industry to carry the insurance. Without it, violators can lower prices and steal business from licensed and insured contractors.

In the state of Florida, unlicensed contracting is usually charged as a first-degree misdemeanor, with penalties of up to 1 year in jail or 12 months of probation, and a $1,000.00 fine. If the accused has been previously convicted of contracting without a license, the offense may be charged as third-degree felony, which carries penalties of up to 5 years in prison or 5 years of probation and a $5,000 fine.

When it comes to charges of contracting without a license, it is vital to have a criminal defense attorney on your side to identify possible defenses and to minimize potential penalties. However, many people accused of this charge opt to plead guilty to the charge in order to avoid the expense of an attorney. By doing this, they obtain permanent criminal records, risk their chances of obtaining a license in the future and get slapped with paying out restitution to alleged victims that claim they performed substandard work or used sub-standard materials and caused a loss.

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Two teenage girls were charged after deputies said they stole packages from the front porch of a home in Riverview.

The alleged incident occurred on Dec. 19 around 6:15 p.m. at a home on Palmetto Pine Street.

The two teens are accused of entering into the neighborhood on a golf cart and stole a FedEx package containing an Apple TV streaming router–valued at $140–and two UPS packages with a t-shirt–valued at $9.88–and hand balm–valued at $12.77–from the front porch of the home.

The suspects are a 13 and 14-year-old girl. They were charged with petit theft and were entered into the Juvenile Arrest Avoidance Program based upon no prior criminal history.

Tis the season for seeing an increase in thefts, specifically, packages stolen from homes. Childhood is a time of learning rules and juveniles don’t always stop to think before they act. The number of ways a child can get into trouble are truly unlimited. Simple mistakes can easily turn into a criminal arrest, and the consequences can be serious. The juvenile court system focuses on rehabilitation and education of minors who have deliberately or mistakenly committed a crime.

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About 20 unlicensed contractors accused of scamming Pinellas County residents were taken into custody Tuesday.

According to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, deputies began rounding up the contractors at 5 a.m. during “Operation Nailed.”

The men, roofers, painters and construction workers are accused of scamming residents out of thousands of dollars in the past few months.

The roundup was a collaborative operation between the Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Financial Services, Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board, Pinellas County Consumer Protection and the State Attorney’s Office, targeting unlicensed contractors in Pinellas County.

Until two months ago, unlicensed contractors normally received simple fines. But in an effort to crack down on members of the public being taken advantage of, arrest warrants are now being issued.

In Florida, doing contractor work without a license is a misdemeanor for the first offense. After that, it is a felony. According to the PCSO, the pilot program targeting unlicensed contractors still has four months to go. So far, detectives are working as many as 220 cases.

Many people make the mistake of thinking that performing work for others, without a license, is “no big deal.” However, if you are convicted of contracting without a license, there will be additional consequences on top of potential jail time and fines. You will also have a permanent criminal record, which can make it more difficult to apply for jobs, to apply for other professional licenses, to obtain housing, or to pass a background check.

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Florida authorities said three teenagers – one 14-year-old and two 16-year-olds – stole a sport utility vehicle, sped away from officers and died in a fiery, violent crash early Sunday morning.

The 4:30 a.m. crash happened in Pinellas County.

A fourth teen in the SUV, who is 14, survived and is hospitalized.

All the teens all had criminal histories – including one who had gotten out of jail on July 31.

Reports indicate that a Ford Explorer and a Chrysler Sebring were stolen from a Clearwater car dealership Thursday. Both vehicles were spotted by deputies early Sunday morning. Deputies tried to apprehend the drivers of the cars, but didn’t pursue them. The sheriff’s office’s pursuit policy generally does not allow deputies to chase stolen cars.

Deputies believed the teens were using the stolen cars to commit burglaries. At one point, they set up a perimeter to try to catch the teens, but a deputy spotted the vehicles outside of the perimeter.

According to reports, the cars were in a “cat and mouse” game with each other, accelerating and slowing down, hitting speeds of 100 mph or more.

The deputy that spotted them did not initiate a high-speed chase, but the Explorer continued at about 100 mph when it hit another vehicle, caught fire and went airborne. The Explorer also hit a billboard pole.

The driver hit by the Explorer suffered minor injuries, reports indicate.

Officers found the Chrysler Sebring and arrested the two in that car; one is 16 and the other 18.

The teens involved were being monitored under a program for repeat offenders.

In 2015, police in Pinellas made 499 felony arrests for juvenile auto theft, more than any other county in Florida going back eight years, and more than the most populous counties in America, including Los Angeles. The Tampa Bay Times did an investigation into teen car thefts in April of 2017; the paper found that every four days, a teen crashes a stolen car in Pinellas County. It also found that in nearly every other county in Florida, most people arrested for auto theft are adults. But in Pinellas County, 62 percent are younger than 18 – the largest rate of juveniles arrested for grand theft auto of any sizable Florida county for at least a decade.

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St. Petersburg police arrested a 25-year-old man and charged him with two counts of kidnapping and one count of sexual battery with a deadly weapon.

Police claim the incidents involved teenage boy.

Police said the first incident happened June 29 when the man posed as a teenage girl on Facebook and lured a 17-year-old boy to a house. The man was allegedly armed with a handgun and threatened the boy, then apparently sexually assaulted him, authorities said.

The man is also accused of posing as a teenage girl and luring a 15-year-old boy to a vacant house on July 17. The boy escaped unharmed.

There are various levels of kidnapping laws in the state of Florida, and all of them are serious. Potential penalties can include substantial jail time and fines, just to name a few. These are severe crimes that require a strong defense. Depending on the facts of your case, some of your defense options could completely dismiss kidnapping charges while others may reduce the penalties of a conviction. When faced with kidnapping charges in St. Petersburg or the surrounding area, don’t mess around – get help from a Tampa Bay Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton as soon as possible.

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Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler was arrested on charges of simple battery and criminal mischief Tuesday night.

Police say Fowler was driving in the Trellis at the Lakes apartment complex Tuesday night when a man walking nearby criticized his driving.

Fowler allegedly got out of his car, exchanged words with the man before hitting him, investigators said. Police claim the hit knocked off the man’s glasses, and Fowler stepped on them. He also allegedly grabbed the man’s grocery bag and threw it into a nearby lake.

The victim did not suffer any injuries.

Fowler was arrested and booked into the Pinellas County Jail.

Fowler is scheduled to report to training camp next week.

While both of these charges are misdemeanors, they still need to be dealt with accordingly. A conviction could result in jail time and fines. Our St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton are committed to the aggressive defense of our clients when they are facing battery charges. If possible, we will fight for a dismissal of the charges. We pursue every legal defense possible to mitigate the potential penalties, so that you can move on from this unfortunate situation as unscathed as possible.

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A Dunedin man was arrested last week on charges of sexual battery on a minor.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office alleges that a 15-year-old girl was in the care of the 32-year-old man when he engaged in sexual activity with her on at least two occasions.

The teen apparently told an adult what happened, who reported it to the sheriff’s office.

The man is charged with one count of sexual battery and one count of lewd and lascivious molestation.

He was booked into the Pinellas County jail.

Anyone can be accused of a sex crime. Once you have been accused, police will investigate and usually make an arrest. All it takes is one person’s word against yours. When children are involved, police and prosecutors tend to side with whatever they say happened, regardless of whether it’s true. Because of this, you must take appropriate action to protect yourself and your future. You need a criminal defense attorney who can tell your side of the story and make sure your rights are protected.

If you or someone you know has been accused of a sex crime, you must act fast and obtain legal representation. Our Pinellas County Criminal Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can help you through this difficult time. We will investigate the charges against you and make sure any evidence against you was obtained legally. We will also look into the credibility of your accuser.

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A St. Petersburg police officer has been charged with domestic battery.

According to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, the man was arrested Monday following an altercation with his live-in girlfriend.

The alleged incident occurred at about 1:30 a.m. Saturday. The man was arrested Sunday.

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A Largo man has been charged with possessing child pornography, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.

The 69-year-old was arrested at his home on 126th Avenue Wednesday morning.

According to detectives, the investigation began in April after they received information that the man had child porn in his possession.

Investigators were allegedly able to recover six images depicting child pornography from electronic devices belonging to the man, according to reports.

He has been charged with six counts of possession of child pornography. He was transported to the Pinellas County Jail.

Whether you are facing possession of child pornography charges or the actual production of child porn, these charges are severe and require a strong criminal defense. As former prosecutors with the State, our Pinellas County Criminal Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can  provide you with the thorough and aggressive legal defense you need.

We know that many of these cases involve online peer-to-peer file-sharing networks where the material is usually downloaded by mistake or embedded in with other files being downloaded that can later be traced to you. If you have been caught with child porn or have been contacted by police, it is best to invoke your rights to remain silent and contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Speaking with police without your attorney present, regardless of your innocence, can quickly backfire.

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