Articles Posted in Sarasota County

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A Florida man plead guilty in early 2014 to attempting to defraud Medicare of more than $28 million after buying several rehabilitation clinics, including one in Venice.

The U.S. Department of Justice claims the man bought up the clinics so he could gain access to the clinics’ Medicare provider numbers.


A Florida man faces up to 15 years in prison for attempting to defraud Medicare of more than $28 million after buying several rehabilitation clinics.

The 53-year-old man, formerly of Southwest Florida, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and making a false statement relating to healthcare matters.

He faces up to 15 years in prison.

According to a Department of Justice statement, the man was the head of a Delaware holding company that he allegedly used to buy several comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation facilities and outpatient physical therapy providers throughout Florida in the mid-2000s.

Those offices included clinics in Venice, Fort Myers, Lake Wales and Port St. Lucie.

Once they owned the clinics, the man and other company executives apparently obtained identifying information of both Medicare beneficiaries and physicians, which they then used to create and submit false claims for therapy services that were not prescribed and not provided.

DOJ officials claim the man and his co-conspirators forged patient records in order to hide the services they billed Medicare for that had not actually been provided.

The man and his co-conspirators are accused of filing $28.35 million in fraudulent claims with Medicare from 2005 through 2009. Medicare paid approximately $14.4 million on those claims, according to reports.

Authorities allege that once the man received enough Medicare money out of clinics, he sold the storefronts to “straw owners,” who were all recent immigrants to the United States and had no experience working in the healthcare industry.

The DOJ unsealed a 30-count indictment against the man and one of his co-conspirators, a 57-year-old disbarred attorney, in April 2012.

The 53-year-old man has pleaded guilty to two of those charges – conspiracy to commit health care fraud and making a false statement relating to health care matters.

Healthcare fraud cases cost the government millions of dollars each year. The government often makes mistakes and accuses innocent medical professionals and clinic owners of committing federal crimes in order to try and recover their losses from fraudulent claims. Unfortunately, when you are accused of committing Medicare or any other type of healthcare fraud, your family, career and reputation are at risk.

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The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office has arrested more than 60 people, including the alleged ringleader, in one of the largest and most complex prescription drug fraud rings in Sarasota County to date.

The alleged leader, 35, was recently charged with conspiracy to traffic controlled substances as part of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office’s Operation Main Pain. The others arrested were charged with obtaining and trafficking controlled substances.

The man, who is currently in jail in Dade County on unrelated charges, is accused of running a large drug crime ring in 2011, according to Sheriff’s Office.

Detectives allege that from June to October that year, the man wrote approximately 220 prescriptions that were exchanged for nearly 20,000 oxycodone pills at local pharmacies primarily in Sarasota and Venice.

There were 91 oxycodone overdose deaths reported in 2011, according to Sgt. Debra Kaspar, head of the Pharmaceutical Diversion Unit.

prescription pad.jpgThe man is accused of recruiting people to work beneath him and locate runners, predominately of Cuban descent, who were paid for their personal information or to drive people to the different pharmacies to pick up prescriptions. According to the arrest report, those that gave their permission to use their personal information on prescriptions were paid $100 to $300. The others that drove people to the pharmacies to pick up oxycodone, ibuprofen or Xanax pills were paid up to $2,000 per week. All transactions were paid in cash.

The recruiters allegedly gathered the pills from the runners and gave them to the accused ringleader.

The pills had a street value of $300,000, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Detectives claim that the alleged ringleader was selling the drugs to drug dealers, who would then sell them or send them off to other locations.

The sudden flood of prescriptions apparently came to a halt a few months after one of the alleged ringleader’s recruits was arrested.

Arrests have been ongoing since 2011, with some of the most recent arrests occurring last week. Detectives claim there are several warrants that are still active.

Two of the pharmacies involved apparently filled more than 200 of the fraudulent prescriptions in the short time period. Three other pharmacies involved filled 10 prescriptions total.

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office says it works to educate pharmacies to notice red flags. Detectives claim the pharmacies should have noticed something suspicious when so many related prescriptions were being brought in by similar customers from the same doctor.

However, the pharmacies apparently never notified authorities.

Obtaining a Controlled Substance by Fraud, also known as “Doctor Shopping” has become a trending criminal offense in Sarasota County and throughout the state of Florida. With the ever increasing amounts of suspected prescription drug abuse, police officers are placed under a tremendous amount of pressure to locate any alleged offenders as well as the pharmacies filling these prescriptions. In fact, tracking systems have been developed to monitor patient’s medical records and pharmacy histories. While these electronic databases help law enforcement maintain tabs on the amount of prescriptions being prescribed and filled, they place doctors and patients at risk for being charged with a prescription drug crime, even if the prescription is valid.

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A Sarasota man and woman, both 21, were arrested Monday on charges of felony child abuse after the woman’s 3-year-old daughter died from a slew of injuries, including broken ribs and internal bleeding.

The man and woman are currently being held in jail without bail in connection to the toddler’s death on April 11.

Police allege that on April 10 the girl received treatments for asthma, vomited and had complained about being in pain. The couple apparently told a family friend they were taking the girl to a doctor’s appointment, but investigators claim that did not happen.

According to reports, the friend called 911 the next day, after the couple refused to take the girl to the hospital. The friend told deputies that the child was “flopping” around and became non-responsive.

928419_a_childs_eyes.jpgThe child was later pronounced dead. The mother told doctors the child had suffered from asthma, however an autopsy of the child revealed that blunt force trauma to the toddler’s abdomen caused a lacerated and crushed liver, other severe internal injuries and bleeding, which is what investigators believe caused her death.

The medical examiner noted that the young girl also had two broken ribs and various bruises on her body.

Police claim the injuries to the child occurred while she was being solely cared for by the couple.

Both the man and woman have a criminal record. Five of the woman’s previous arrests were for violent offenses, including aggravated battery causing bodily harm. Records show the man has been arrested at least 10 times, for a various charges including battery, driving without a license and selling cocaine.

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A 46-year-old Tallahassee doctor was sentenced to 25 years in prison Friday for his involvement in a prescription pill trafficking operation.

The man was also ordered to pay a $500,000 fine and investigative and prosecutorial costs.

According to the Florida Office of the Attorney General, the illegal operation was to blame for disbursing large quantities of prescription drugs throughout western Florida.

The physician apparently pled guilty to conspiring to traffic in 28 grams or more of oxycodone in October 2011. He was prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution.

The Osceola County Investigative Bureau, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, the Sarasota Police Department and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement claim they began investigating the doctor in 2010. Their alleged investigation revealed the doctor was selling prescriptions for large amounts of oxycodone to a group of associates who would fill the prescriptions and then disburse the pills on the streets of Sarasota.

One of the doctor’s co-defendants was sentenced to 25 years in state prison for his role in the operation and another co-defendant is awaiting sentencing.

Drug trafficking in the State of Florida describes the sale, delivery, possession or manufacturing of illegal drugs and controlled substances over a certain weight or amount. The consequences associated with a drug trafficking charge can vary from a minimum of three years to a maximum of a life sentence in prison, depending on the type of drug and the quantity. Sentences are established by the weight value of the total pills in question. At minimum, a trafficking charge of oxycodone is a three year mandatory prison sentence with a fine of $50,000 and a maximum of 25 years in prison plus a fine of $500,000.

In many drug trafficking cases in Florida, the State will seek conspiracy charges to be filed in addition to trafficking charges in order to obtain convictions not only for trafficking pills, but an agreement to traffic drugs. The conspiracy to traffic drugs can be difficult to understand because most drug charges require for the prosecution to prove that the accused was in possession of the drugs in question at some point. However, a conspiracy to traffic drugs charge can be proven solely by establishing that an agreement existed to carry out a drug-related criminal act. In fact, the act does not have to even be completed to be convicted of conspiracy.

The Florida Prescription Drug Trafficking Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can thoroughly review the facts of your case and explore all possible defenses to combat the charges against you. We will review any evidence and police reports to consider the following:

• Did law enforcement play a role in initiating your participation in the conspiracy?

• Did the conspiracy solely entail verbal agreements, or were there acts in furtherance of the conspiracy?

• Was the agreement terminated or dismissed before an arrest was made?

• Were wiretaps involved, and if so were they legal?

• Was the warrant obtained legal?

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A 16-year-old Sarasota, Florida teen was taken into custody on Sunday, April 17, 2011 for his involvement in the shooting of two British tourists on holiday from England. He was jailed and charged with two counts of murder.

According to BayNews9, the tourists, aged 24 and 25, were killed Saturday morning at The Courts public housing project in the 1700 block of Carver Court in Sarasota, FL. Officials have not determined why the tourists were at the location, which is in an area of town police known to be problematic.

Detectives said the tourists were staying at a hotel on Longboat Key, around 12 miles from where they were shot. The shooting happened just before 3 a.m.

The 16-year-old male arrested for the crime lives in the neighborhood the shooting took place and has a previous record. A few weeks ago he was arrested for aggravated assault with a handgun.

Officials believe that others were involved and are continuing their investigation. Prosecutors will decide of the boy will be tried as a juvenile or an adult.

The state of Florida’s approach to juvenile crime differs in its approach to adult crimes. The ambition for the juvenile court system is not as much to punish but to rehabilitate the juvenile. Criminals sentenced as juveniles can be placed under house arrest or in a juvenile detention center. This is not the same as prison, but more of a passing short-term detention where the juvenile can be given direction, education and mental health or substance abuse services from certified juvenile crime specialists.

For murder offenses, Florida courts have the diplomacy to sentence juveniles to life without parole. When the court believes an offense is too serious for fleeting confinement, the child is sentenced as an adult and sent to a prison with other adult inhabitants. The judge typically has to give a reason for transferring the juvenile to an adult court to be tried as an adult, but not always. As a courtesy, the court sometimes holds the juvenile in the detention center until he receives a sentence as an adult. The court may also impose holding the child until reaching a certain age, usually 19, for transfer to the adult facility.

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