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technology-2500010_640-150x150The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a murder-suicide that happened last Friday morning.

According to Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis, the incident happened at a home located on Dunkirk Road around 10:00 a.m. on Friday, April 10.

The sheriff’s office said they received a 911 call from a woman who was initially out of town. They said the woman received a suicidal text from a person living in the home.

The individual was identified as a 43-year-old man.

Prior to calling law enforcement, the woman drove back to the residence where she found the home on fire. She saw at least one dead individual inside the home before exiting.

The Hernando County Fire Rescue entered the home where they found three dead individuals inside.

The fire was confined to one particular area of the home and was extinguished quickly.

The man, along with a boy and a girl, were found dead.

The preliminary investigation reveals that the man committed suicide after killing the two children.

The Medical Examiner’s Office and the Fire Marshal’s Office responded to assist with the investigation.

Officials said records show there was one previous call at the home on March 22 in regards to a verbal disturbance.

The investigation remains active at this time.

During the news conference, Nienhuis stressed the importance of people knowing where to call if they are struggling with matters.

One of the children was an elementary school student and the other child was in middle school. 

If you, or someone you know, is struggling call:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:


National Domestic Violence Hotline:


When most people hear of domestic violence (also known as “DV”) cases, they think of a male figure with an anger management problem who routinely puts his wife and kids in the hospital whenever there is an argument. The reality of DV cases is very different. Domestic violence accusations can come about from really any situation, from heated arguments to child custody cases to both parties being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 

Due to these cases being severely emotionally charged, prosecutors and the courts are notorious for doling out strict penalties for those accused and charged with domestic violence. The penalties for a domestic violence charge can be absolutely devastating. Domestic violence or domestic battery in Florida is classified as a first-degree misdemeanor, with penalties that may include up to one year in jail or twelve months probation, and a $1,000 fine. Because of the ‘domestic’ nature of the crime, those convicted will face additional mandatory penalties under Chapter 741, Florida Statutes, including:

  • Completion of a 26 week Batterer’s Intervention Program (BIP)
  • 12 months of probation
  • 5 days required jail (if the defendant is adjudicated guilty and there is bodily injury)
  • Additional community service hours
  • Loss of important civil liberties, including concealed carry rights
  • Imposition of an injunction or ‘no contact’ order

Domestic violence is a unique form of violence that occurs between two individuals with a special relationship. Domestic violence charges can be applied when the victim is any of the following:

  • Spouses
  • Former spouses
  • Co-parents
  • Family members
  • Children
  • Roommates
  • Intimate partners

Domestic violence is a group of offenses that include:

  • Certain battery charges
  • Domestic battery
  • Certain homicide charges
  • Invasion of property
  • Stalking
  • Kidnapping
  • Strangulation charges
  • Neglect and abuse
  • Sexual abuse

Domestic violence charges can also arise from certain emotional and/or psychological abuse. Some examples of emotional abuse are:

  • Threatening to harm victim
  • Hurting a pet
  • Name-calling
  • Intimidation
  • Manipulation of words and family members
  • Making fun of victim
  • Ignoring
  • Disrespecting friends and family
  • Isolation of the victim
  • Cheating
  • Monitoring phone calls, texts, emails, and social media

When a domestic violence incident results in death, the accused can be charged with homicide, including murder, voluntary manslaughter, and involuntary manslaughter. A murder from a domestic violence incident occurs when an individual knowingly or intentionally kills a spouse, former spouse, or family member. Voluntary manslaughter would be if the death was carried out in the heat of passion. Involuntary manslaughter is when a crime of battery eventually results in death. In Florida, a conviction for a first-degree murder charge is punishable by a sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole. This can be a capital felony and under certain conditions, the prosecution can push for the death penalty. Voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter are also felonies.

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child-1439468_640-150x150Former Texas Rangers star and 2010 American League MVP Josh Hamilton was indicted on a felony charge for injury to a minor on Monday, according to news reports. 

Hamilton turned himself in to police and was arrested in October for hitting and scratching his daughter.

According to reports, Hamilton told his daughter to tell the judge “what a terrible dad I am” to ensure she would never have to visit his home again. When interviewed by Child Protective Services, his daughter allegedly told the interviewer that Hamilton started to assault and throw things at her after she made a comment that upset him, records show. 

The former baseball player is accused of throwing a full water bottle that hit his daughter in the chest. Hamilton then pulled a chair from under his daughter and threw it at her, a warrant says.

Hamilton then allegedly took his daughter to a room, pinned her to a bed and repeatedly hit her on the back and legs, according to an arrest warrant. 

Hamilton has three children and court records show he is accused of assaulting the oldest. His ex-wife has filed for a temporary restraining order on her daughter’s behalf.

Hamilton, 38, hasn’t appeared in the majors since 2015. In addition to the Rangers, he played for the Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Angels over parts of a nine-season career. The No. 1 pick in the 1999 draft, Hamilton’s career was delayed by substance abuse and addiction issues. 

What Is Domestic Violence in Florida? 

As defined by law, domestic violence is:

741.28 “Domestic violence” means any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.

“Family or household member” means spouses, former spouses, persons related by blood or marriage, persons who are presently residing together as if a family or who have resided together in the past as if a family, and persons who are parents of a child in common regardless of whether they have been married. With the exception of persons who have a child in common, the family or household members must be currently residing or have in the past resided together in the same single dwelling unit.

Due to the relationships involved and the complexity of the laws, domestic violence cases are often mentally and emotionally taxing. If you have been accused of a domestic violence crime, you must protect your rights. You will need an experienced criminal defense lawyer to help you fight back against these charges.

Criminal courts in Florida, and throughout the U.S., are extremely tough on domestic violence. Our Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are well equipped to handle cases stemming from the area of domestic violence. We know the damage this can cause to your reputation and the strain it can place on your relationship with family members and friends. We want to help you through this difficult time and simplify the legal process for you.

Domestic violence can be many different things, not just physical abuse or violence. Domestic violence can also include sexual abuse, emotional abuse, intimidation, and economic deprivation. Even just the threat of violence or harm can be considered domestic abuse. We have laid out some examples of domestic violence below: 

Physical abuse

  • Striking or hitting
  • Punching or beating
  • Pulling hair 
  • Excessive pushing or throwing a person to the ground
  • Ordering a dog to attack 

Emotional abuse

  • Harassment
  • Threats
  • Verbal criticism and abuse
  • Making someone live in fear for their life or safety
  • Stalking

Sexual abuse

  • Sexual Coercion
  • Inappropriate sexual comments
  • Forced sexual acts or advances
  • Physical Assault
  • Rape

Child Abuse

  • Child Endangerment – this happens when a child witnesses acts of violence
  • Physical child abuse
  • Emotional child abuse
  • Sexual child abuse

When these acts are carried out against a family or household member, they may constitute domestic violence. The following are examples of relationships that may fall under the umbrella of domestic violence:

  • Spouses and ex-spouses
  • Unmarried couples who are parents together
  • Couples who are/were dating
  • Children and stepchildren
  • Parents
  • Roommates
  • In-Home caregivers and their patients

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violence-against-women-4209778_640-150x150Mandatory lockdowns to curb the spread of COVID-19 have trapped people inside their homes, which is causing many to have concern for domestic violence victims who are isolated from the people and the resources that could help them.

In the United States, where 5,218 people have been infected with the coronavirus, the National Domestic Violence Hotline reports that a growing number of callers say that their abusers are using COVID-19 as a means of further isolating them from their friends and family. 

From Europe to Asia, millions of people have been placed under lockdown, as the coronavirus infects more than 183,000 people. As social distancing continues with no known end date, many fear that this creates an opportunity for abusers to unleash more violence.

One out of three women in the world experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, according to the World Health Organization. While men experience domestic violence, women make up the majority of victims, with LGBTQ individuals also facing elevated rates of domestic violence. With that said, during times of crisis—which now includes coronavirus—the risk of gender-based-violence escalates. In China, the number of domestic violence cases reported to the local police tripled in February compared to the previous year, according to Axios. Activists believe this is a result of enforced lockdown.

The current crisis also makes it more difficult for victims to seek help. As medical facilities around the world scramble to respond to the coronavirus, health systems are becoming overloaded, which is making it more difficult for victims to get access to medical care or therapists. 

For many women, even the fear of contracting the coronavirus is stopping them from seeking out medical care after experiencing physical abuse. Going to the ER is too terrifying for some as they fear catching COVID-19.

Others fear going to their parents’ home, as they could expose their elderly parents to the virus. For some, travel restrictions may limit their ability to stay with loved ones. Women’s shelters may also be overcrowded during this time or may close their doors if the risk of infection is deemed too high.

Domestic violence organizations like the National Domestic Violence Hotline are developing new strategies to support victims under lockdown. The hotline does offer services via online chat or texting, making it easier for victims to seek out help while at home.

Coronavirus Isolation Can Increase the Number of Domestic Violence Cases in Florida

When families are forced to isolate and steer clear of everything they are used to doing, such as going to work, dropping kids off at school, attending religious services, and even trips to the mall, the aftermath can be devastating. With our current state of coronavirus isolation, this article highlights that we will likely see a rise in domestic violence incidents. 

When someone tests positive for coronavirus, or comes into contact with someone who has coronavirus, they must self-isolate at home for at least 14 days. With many states announcing shelter-in-place orders or bans on non-essential businesses, Florida could be soon to follow. When people who have short tempers are forced to isolate, any friction at home could lead to domestic violence.

Not only are people fearful of the coronavirus, but the uncertainty regarding work and pay has pushed many to their mental health limits. Families are worried about making enough money to pay their bills. Schools have shut down, leaving parents without childcare. Attempting to work from home with bored and loud children coupled with intense financial pressures and no end in sight can easily trigger all sorts of emotions that could lead to incidents of domestic violence.

Coronavirus Isolation and Mental Health 

The fear of the coronavirus pandemic has brought on severe stress and anxiety. Human beings are not designed to undergo constant stress and fear on top of being isolated from others for extended periods of time. As social creatures, our mental health relies on interaction with others in the world around us. 

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stethoscope-1584223_640-150x150A Florida doctor has agreed to pay $1.74 million to resolve allegations that he submitted fraudulent Medicare claims, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Orlando announced.

The doctor and the Village Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery were accused of billing Medicare for higher levels of reimbursements than were performed in the central Florida facility, according to a news release.

The cases involved tissue transfers that were apparently billed as more complex cases between Jan. 1, 2011 and July 31, 2016, the statement said. This included 14,000 level tissue transfers which should have been billed as lower level wound repairs.

The inflated claims were paid by Medicare.

“Protecting federal healthcare programs and the patients who receive their care is among our top priorities,” U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez said in a statement released Friday. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to hold accountable those who inflate claims to Medicare or abuse any of our nation’s healthcare programs.”

Medicare and medicaid fraud has been at the top of the list for the federal government for many years, so naturally as new health care laws get implemented, they will continue to closely monitor medicaid reimbursement submissions for any suspicious activity. Similarly, investigators will also be keeping a close watch for medicare fraud crimes against insurance companies.

If you are a doctor or any other medical professional that has been accused of health care fraud or another federal white collar crime, you are facing very serious charges that must be dealt with accordingly. You will be going head to head with prosecutors that have very deep pockets and numerous resources at their disposal. If you want to stand a fighting chance, you must have a strong attorney on your side. This is what you will find when you work with our Florida Medicare Fraud Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton. 

Have You Been Accused of Medicare Fraud in Florida? 

When it comes to health care fraud cases, the burden lies with the prosecution to prove that the accused had a willful intent to defraud the government or private insurance company. The truth is that many doctors and other medical professionals accused of these crimes did not knowingly commit them. Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement forms are complex and can be hard for even the most intelligent of people to fully understand. Coding and bookkeeping errors are often mistaken as intentional crimes by the federal government.

You Have Legal Options

Everyone has legal rights, and we can use the law to protect yours. Most people find themselves under investigation for or charged with health care fraud related to the following:

  • Billing for medical services not actually performed, known as phantom billing
  • Billing for a more expensive service than was actually rendered, known as up coding
  • Billing for several services that should be combined into one billing, known as unbundling
  • Billing twice for the same medical service
  • Dispensing generic drugs and billing for brand-name drugs
  • Giving or accepting something in return for medical services, known as a kickback
  • Bribery
  • Providing unnecessary services
  • False cost reports
  • Embezzlement of recipient funds

When you are a medical professional accused of health care fraud, the stakes are high. Your freedom, future and medical license are all at risk. Our Medicare Fraud Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton will vigorously protect your rights. We will review every piece of evidence against you to identify any errors or discrepancies. After a careful analysis, we may be able to get the charges against you dropped or reduced.

Health Care Fraud Penalties

When charged at the federal level, criminal penalties for healthcare fraud depend on which law was violated. For example, under the False Claims Act, penalties may include a maximum of five years in federal prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, and a loss of license. Likewise, under the Anti-Kickback Statute, violators may be jailed up to five years and fined up to $75,000 per violation.

Criminal consequences for health care fraud may increase in certain circumstances. If the act resulted in injury to another person, it could be punishable by 20 years of federal prison time for each count of fraud. If a patient died as a result, the penalty could be elevated to a life sentence.

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In one of several criminal justice reforms being pushed for 2020, the Senate voted 39-1 to relax some drug-related mandatory minimums.

SB 346, sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley, would increase judicial discretion in sentencing non violent offenders in their first drug possession conviction.

Bradley noted that this was a “third rail” back in 2013, but now has support from the Florida Prosecutors Association.

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Rod Stewart, who turns 75 on Friday, and his 39-year-old son Sean Roderick Stewart, were each charged with simple battery by the Palm Beach County Police Department after an alleged fight with a security guard on New Year’s Eve.

Police say father and son got into an altercation on Tuesday night with a man who was working as a security guard employed by the Breakers Palm Beach resort for a private event in a children’s area.

According to the probable cause affidavit, the 33-year-old guard, saw a group of people approaching the check-in table but they were not authorized to be there.

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Sexual predators and others partaking in sextortion, a form of blackmail in which sexual information or images are used to extort sexual favors from the victim, have found an easy access point into gaining victims. According to the New York Times, they are meeting them online through multiplayer video games and chat apps, making virtual connections right in their victims’ homes.

Here’s how it works. The predators strike up a conversation and gradually build trust. Often they pose as children, confiding in their victims with false stories of hardship or self-loathing. Their goal is to trick children and adults alike into sharing sexually explicit photos and videos of themselves, which they use as blackmail for more imagery, much of it increasingly graphic and violent.

Reports of abuse are emerging with unprecedented frequency around the country, with some perpetrators grooming hundreds and even thousands of victims, according to a review of prosecutions, court records, law enforcement reports and academic studies. Games are a common target, but predators are also finding many victims on social platforms like Instagram and Kik Messenger.

The New York Times reported earlier this year that the tech industry had made only tepid efforts to combat an explosion of child sexual abuse imagery on the internet. The Times has also found that the troubled response extends to the online gaming and chat worlds, where popular and successful companies have created spaces that allow adults and children to interact, despite efforts to create some safeguards.

There are tools to detect previously identified abuse content, but scanning for new images — like those extorted in real time from young gamers — is more difficult. While a handful of products have detection systems in place, there is little incentive under the law to tackle the problem as companies are largely not held responsible for illegal content posted on their websites.

Six years ago, a little over 50 reports of the crimes, commonly known as “sextortion,” were referred to the federally designated clearinghouse in suburban Washington that tracks online child sexual abuse. Last year, the center received over 1,500. And the authorities believe that the vast majority of sextortion cases are never reported.

There are many ways for gamers to meet online. They can use built-in chat features on consoles like Xbox and services like Steam, or connect on sites like Discord and Twitch. The games have become extremely social, and developing relationships with strangers on them is normal.

In many instances, the abusive relationships start in the games themselves. In other cases, adults posing as teenagers move conversations from gaming sites and chat rooms to platforms like Facebook Messenger, Kik and Skype, where they can communicate more privately.

After making contact, predators often build on the relationship by sending gifts or gaming currency, such as V-Bucks in Fortnite. Then they begin desensitizing children to sexual terms and imagery before asking them to send naked pictures and videos of their own.

There has been some success in catching perpetrators. In May, a California man was sentenced to 14 years in prison for coercing an 11-year-old girl “into producing child pornography” after meeting her through the online game Clash of Clans. A man in suburban Seattle got a 15-year sentence in 2015 for soliciting explicit imagery from three boys after posing as a teenager while playing Minecraft and League of Legends. An Illinois man received a 15-year sentence in 2017 after threatening to rape two boys in Massachusetts — adding that he would kill one of them — whom he had met over Xbox Live.

Sextortion is a crime. It is the use of sexual exploitation to manipulate others into sending  photos, videos, and recordings that are sexual in nature. In the majority of cases, the offenders use any material to ask for sexual favors and money. To carry out the crime of extortion, offenders use guilt, power and private information to coerce their victim to keep sending them what they want. 

Prosecutors estimate that actual cases of sextortion fall between 3,000 or 6,500 victims. Most victims do not report this crime because they are ashamed or embarrassed. Even when a victim does report the incident, it can still be difficult for law enforcement to track down the perpetrator.

Extortion/sextortion crimes can be charged as state or federal offenses. This crime is classified as a second-degree felony in Florida, carrying potential consequences of up to 15 years in prison.

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On May 24, 2019, the Governor signed House Bill 337 which was previously passed by the Florida legislature. This law makes major changes to the jurisdictional limits of the Florida Courts.

Currently, county courts in Florida have jurisdiction of all claims up to $15,000.00 and circuit court has jurisdiction for claims in excess of $15,000.00.

Under this new law, the jurisdiction of county court is increased to $30,000.00 effective January 1, 2020. As a result, after January 1, 2020, the jurisdiction for the circuit courts will be for any claims in excess of $30,000.00. Then on January 1, 2023, the jurisdiction of the county court is increased to include claims up to $50,000.00, which will give the circuit courts jurisdiction in any claim in excess of $50,000.00.

Small claims court is a division of county court and currently small claims court and small claims procedures apply to claims up to $5,000.00. A Supreme Court workgroup studying judicial caseloads last year recommended raising the small claims jurisdiction to $8,000 and the court passed that to the Small Claims Rules Committee for action. Starting January 1, 2020, the jurisdictional amounts for small claims courts will be raised from $5,000 to $8,000 and also requires those filing civil actions in county court to list the amount in controversy.

To summarize, on January 1, 2020, changes in Florida state law and the Florida Rules of Procedure will go into effect, changing where a variety of court actions are heard.

  • County court jurisdictional thresholds increase to $30,000 on January 1, 2020, and to $50,000 on January 1, 2023.
  • Small claims cases on January 1, 2020, will include cases up to $8,000.
  • Filers will be required to include a civil cover sheet specifying the dollar amount in dispute in cases exceeding $8,000 in value.
  • The new law maintains current rules that limits the provision of subsidized court mediation services to county court cases with an amount in controversy up to $15,000.
  • State law provides that on January 1, 2020, appeals of county court orders or judgments with an amount in controversy greater than $15,000 will be heard by the district courts of appeal until January 1, 2023, when the provision repeals.

What You Need to Know About the Florida Court System

Florida has 67 county courts, 20 circuit courts, five district courts of appeal, and then the Supreme Court for the entire state. The Office of the State Courts Administrators serves as the administrative arm of the Florida Supreme Court and was formed in 1972.

County Courts

The Florida state constitution states that there must be one county court in each of Florida’s 67 counties. County courts are where smaller cases are resolved, such as traffic claims, misdemeanors and monetary issues of a smaller denomination ($15,000 or less).

Circuit Courts

The circuit courts primarily handle civil cases where the monetary issues are larger than $15,000, and felony criminal cases, as well as appeals from county courts. There are 20 judicial circuits in Florida, including:

  • First Circuit – Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton
  • Second Circuit – Franklin, Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, and Wakulla
  • Third Circuit – Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee and Taylor
  • Fourth Circuit – Clay, Duval and Nassau
  • Fifth Circuit – Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter
  • Sixth Circuit – Pasco and Pinellas
  • Seventh Circuit – Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns and Volusia
  • Eighth Circuit – Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy, and Union
  • Ninth Circuit – Orange and Osceola
  • Tenth Circuit – Hardee, Highlands, and Polk
  • Eleventh Circuit – Miami-Dade
  • Twelfth Circuit – DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota
  • Thirteenth Circuit – Hillsborough
  • Fourteenth Circuit – Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson and Washington
  • Fifteenth Circuit – Palm Beach
  • Sixteenth Circuit – Monroe
  • Seventeenth Circuit – Broward
  • Eighteenth Circuit – Brevard and Seminole
  • Nineteenth Circuit – Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee and St. Lucie
  • Twentieth Circuit – Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee

District Courts of Appeal

These are located in Tallahassee, Miami, Lakeland, West Palm Beach and Daytona Beach. These courts provide review of decisions from the lower courts. They correct errors and ensure that decisions are consistent with both statutes and the state and federal constitutions. The decisions reached at these courts usually represent the final review of cases, but they can reach the Supreme Court of Florida if that court chooses to look at the case.
Florida Supreme Court

Mandatory Jurisdiction: The Court MUST review:

  • final orders imposing death sentences,
  • district court decisions declaring a State statute or provision of the State Constitution invalid,
  • bond validations,
  • certain orders of the Public Service Commission on utility rates and services.

“Mandatory” jurisdiction defines those cases that, under the constitutional and statutory framework of a state, must be considered and decided by the court as a matter of right if properly filed.

Discretionary Jurisdiction: The Court, in addition to these forms of mandatory review authority, if discretionary review is sought by a party, the Court at its discretion MAY review

  • any decision of a district court of appeal that expressly declares valid a state statute,
  • construes a provision of the state or federal constitution,
  • affects a class of constitutional or state officers,
  • directly conflicts with a decision of another district court or of the Supreme Court on the same question of law,
  • certified as great public importance,
  • certified direct conflict,
  • certified judgment of trial courts,
  • certified question from federal courts.

“Discretionary” jurisdiction defines the class of cases where a petition seeking review, if granted, would result in the case being considered and decided on the merits.

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The manager in charge of multiple medical clinics in Brooklyn and Queens, New York, was found guilty of his role in a nearly $100 million health care kickback and money laundering scheme.  

After a two-week trial, the 44-year-old Brooklyn man was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, two counts of money laundering, one count of conspiracy to receive and pay health care kickbacks and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States by obstructing the IRS.  Sentencing has been set for April 8, 2020. 

The man was said to be the leader of a large scale healthcare kickback and money laundering scheme in which he and his co-conspirators stole tens of millions of dollars from the Medicare and Medicaid programs. 

According to evidence presented at trial, the man and his co-conspirators operated a series of medical clinics in Brooklyn and Queens over the course of nearly a decade that submitted approximately $96 million in medical claims.  The clinics employed doctors, physical and occupational therapists, and other medical professionals who were enrolled in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. In return for illegal kickbacks, the man and his co-conspirators referred beneficiaries to these health care providers, who submitted claims to the Medicare and Medicaid programs, according to court records.  The man then laundered a substantial portion of those proceeds through companies he and his co-conspirators controlled, including by cashing checks at several New York City check-cashing businesses; he and his co-conspirators then failed to report that cash income to the IRS. The man used that cash to enrich himself and others and to pay kickbacks to patient recruiters, including ambulette drivers, who, in turn, paid beneficiaries to receive treatment at the defendant’s medical clinics. Evidence established that the man used shell companies and fake invoices to conceal his illegal activities.

More than 25 other individuals have pleaded guilty to or been convicted of participating in the scheme, including physicians, physical and occupational therapists, ambulette drivers, and the owners of several of the sham shell companies used to launder the stolen money.

This case was investigated by the HHS-OIG and IRS-CI, and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.  

The Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force.  Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which maintains 15 strike forces operating in 24 districts, has charged more than 4,200 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for nearly $19 billion.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

If you’re charged with Medicare or any other type of health care fraud, you may face serious penalties imposed by state or federal courts. Our Florida Medicare Fraud Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton have extensive experience providing criminal defense for anyone charged with crimes related to health care fraud.

At the state and federal level, fraud related to health care and Medicare cost taxpayers billions of dollars a year, which is why government agencies work vigilantly to uncover any schemes. Due to the fact that federal and state authorities are so aggressive about prosecuting cases of perceived fraud relating to health care or Medicare, many innocent people can be caught up in investigations. If you are charged and convicted of health care fraud, you can be subject to serious penalties such as lengthy prison sentences, fines, and restitution.

Medicare fraud convictions require the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an individual knowingly or willfully submitted a false claim or engaged in kickbacks or health care fraud. However, the prosecution does not have to prove the person had actual knowledge or specific intent to obtain a conviction. A person can actually be convicted if they are found to have acted with blatant disregard of the truth or falsity of the claim. 

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Offenders caught with small amounts of most drugs could be sent to jail but not prison under a bill approved by a Florida Senate committee.

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee unanimously approved the bill on Tuesday. It would also give judges more leeway in sentencing drug dealers in some circumstances.

The legislation sponsored by Republican Sen. Rob Bradley would mean people possessing less than two grams of drugs other than fentanyl couldn’t be sentenced to more than 12 months in jail. Offenders would be held in county jails and not state prison.

Judges would also be able to depart from mandatory minimum sentences for drug dealers if they are non-violent, didn’t possess a gun and haven’t been previously convicted of a felony.

Incarceration of individuals that are convicted of non-violent crimes, like drug crimes, comes at a great cost to society. When a person is found guilty of a drug-related offense, but would be best served by treatment for addiction, the criminal justice system can actually perpetuate the problem. But the Florida legislature is giving strong consideration to reducing sentences for those convicted of possessing small quantities of drugs. 

The state of Florida has many types of drug possession charges, most of which can be charged as a felony offense. Drug possession charges happen as a result of being arrested with drugs in your possession for personal use. However, depending on how much is found in your possession, you could be charged with possession with intent to sell, regardless of if you were actually selling drugs. 

There are certain requirements that must be met to charge someone with possession. In order to be found guilty of a drug possession charge, the prosecution must prove the following elements in court:

  1. An illegal or controlled substance or drug was found on the person
  2. The person had knowledge of the controlled substance
  3. The person was in control of the drug or its location

Current Florida law makes possession of marijuana (under 20 grams) a first degree misdemeanor. If you are convicted of a simple possession of marijuana offense, the court may impose penalties of up to one year in jail and fines up to $1,000 Your driver’s license could also be suspended for two years.

Under Florida law, possession of cocaine is a third degree felony, with penalties that include up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. A conviction for cocaine possession will also result in a two year Florida driver’s license revocation.

Possession of a controlled substance in the state of Florida is charged as a third degree felony, and comes with penalties of jail time, probation, and thousands of dollars in fines. A controlled substance is defined as “a drug or chemical whose manufacture, possession, or use is regulated by a government, such as illicitly used drugs or prescription medications that are designated by law.” The penalties for possessing a controlled substance vary based on the drugs involved, and the amounts in your possession at the time of your arrest.

A conviction for any drug possession crime can follow you around for the rest of your life. This could be brought back up when you want to apply for a job, a student loan, or a lease. Even if it is your first offense, a possession charge of any kind is a serious charge that could result in a criminal record that will affect your future in some way.

Our Florida Drug Crimes Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton will do everything we can to get the charges against you dismissed or seek alternative sentencing, such as Pretrial Diversion or Drug Court. In certain cases, if you can pass through either of these programs successfully, the state will dismiss your possession charges. If trial is the only option for you, we can represent you in court and fight for the best possible outcome on your behalf. 

Our Florida Drug Possession Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton are committed to helping those with a drug addiction problem get the treatment they need. If you are personally struggling with addiction problems or you are concerned family member trying to help a loved one with the underlying issues of their drug charge, we can help you explore your legal options for your criminal case as well as locate any addiction and recovery programs that could benefit you.

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