Federal Fraud Charges Allege Acceptance of Kickbacks by Doctor

Federal criminal law in Texas and around the country deals with fraudulent acts that cross state lines, affect interstate commerce, or target or otherwise affect specific federal programs. Common charges in federal fraud cases involve the alleged use of mail or electronic communications in furtherance of a fraudulent scheme—these are known as mail fraud and wire fraud, respectively. Certain federal statutes apply to specific types of fraudulent activities, in which case prosecutors may pursue general fraud charges and charges under a specific statute. This was the case in a recent prosecution of a doctor for wire fraud, violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute and the Travel Act, and conspiracy to violate both of those statutes. United States v. Savino, No. 2:16-cr-00582, indictment (D.N.J., Dec. 20, 2016). In late 2017, a jury convicted the defendant on all 10 charges in the indictment.

The federal Anti-Kickback Statute addresses bribery in federal health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid. It prohibits soliciting or receiving anything of value in exchange for referring patients to any business “for which payment may be made in whole or in part under a Federal health care program.” 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7b(b)(1)(A). Penalties may include a fine of up to $25,000 and up to five years in prison. The statute also covers the other side of such a transaction, making it a comparable offense to “offer[] or pay[] any remuneration” for making a referral. Id. at § 1320a-7b(b)(2)(A). The Fifth Circuit has held that “inducement…to refer patients” only needs to be one purpose of the payment, instead of the sole purpose, to constitute a violation of the statute. United States v. Davis, 132 F.3d 1092, 1094 (5th Cir. 1998).

The International Travel Act of 1961, or simply the Travel Act, prohibits the use of U.S. mail, or of interstate or international travel, in furtherance of criminal offenses related to racketeering. In other words, the act of traveling itself becomes criminal if the purpose of said travel is to commit a certain other offense, and the person commits or attempts to commit that offense upon arrival. The offenses include “distribut[ing] the proceeds of any unlawful activity” and otherwise participating in “the promotion, management, establishment, or carrying on, of any unlawful activity.” 18 U.S.C. §§ 1952(a)(1), (3). Penalties can include up to five years in prison, possibly not counting penalties for the underlying offense.

The federal government accused the defendant in Savino, who is a doctor in New York City, of accepting about $25,000 in payments from employees of a New Jersey blood-testing lab and referring about $375,000 worth of business as a result. He was reportedly the fourth doctor charged in a scheme that prosecutors claim involved $4 million in payments, leading to referrals that generated $100 million in business, partly paid by Medicare. The indictment included one count of conspiracy to violate the above-mentioned statutes and to defraud patients of honest services, three counts of illegal remuneration under the Anti-Kickback Statute, three counts of promoting, carrying on, and facilitating commercial bribery under the Travel Act, and three counts of scheming to defraud patients of honest services by accepting concealed bribes.

These blog posts are meant to be illustrative only. Unless expressly stated to the contrary herein, these matters are not the result of any legal work of Michael J. Brown, but are used to communicate a particular point of view. Michael J. Brown does not claim credit for any legal work done by any lawyer or law firm either generally or specifically, with respect to the matters contained in this blog.

Michael J. Brown, a board-certified white collar crime lawyer, has advocated for the rights of defendants in West Texas criminal courts for more than 20 years. Contact us today at (432) 687-5157 or online to schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our skilled and knowledgeable team.

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