We are seeing more and more federal criminal prosecutions for alleged medicaid fraud, here in Atlanta, throughout Georgia, and in other cases that take us to other parts of the country. Whenever federal prosecutors bring up these kinds of charges, they almost always issue a press release. The local media lap up these press releases like kittens at a bowl of milk. Because of ethical and constitutional issues, these press releases always include a line to the effect that the indictment, issued along with bells and whistles and a press release, only “contains charges” and the public should remember that the charged persons are “presumed innocent.” Here is a recent example of one such press release.
A lawyer handling the defense of a person accused of defrauding the medicaid system has a lot of work on his or her hands. First, the law is complicated. The facts are usually very complex. The information is almost always voluminous. The practice of medicine, providing mental health services, or selling products or drugs to be used in the medical field are all businesses that generate gigantic amounts of information and data. We are regularly amazed at the volume of material we need to assess when representing our clients in one of these highly sophisticated types of federal criminal cases.
Not only is the lawyer’s task complicated by the very nature of these cases, the attorney also needs to figure out whether it makes any sense to fight back against the government’s press release that is only one side of the story. There are some lawyers who will talk to just about any TV camera or reporter who asks them any question about any subject, mundane or serious. Other lawyers are highly reticent, refusing to talk except when in court or through the filing of legal pleadings. I do not have a rule, for me each matter is different. Sometimes we do have to fight fire with fire, and talk to the media to remind them of our side of the story. Other times, it is better to lay back and hold our fire until we are in the place that matters, in the courtroom where we have loads of experience.
Beyond the complexity of the case and the need to figure out if it makes sense to “go public”, medicaid fraud matters are further complicated by the collateral consequences for certain clients. For example, there are many additional things to keep in mind when we represent a doctor, dentist, or any medical practitioner who has a license. For example, even if we prevail and beat the criminal charges, the State licensing agency can use the same evidence to say that our client can no longer practice medicine, dentistry and the like. Also, there often are parallel civil lawsuits in which the State or Federal government tries to recoup money from our client, even if we win or resolve the criminal charges in the best way possible for our clients.
We are currently working on a number of medicaid fraud matters, both in the pretrial investigative stage and other matters in which the government has already indicted our client. Each matter is different, but some parts in each case are similar. The hardest part is to work through the facts, the law, and come up with the best solution for each client and his or her family. That is why this kind of work is so difficult.