Government Fraud: Charges, Penalties, & Defense

Law gavel and American flag depicting government fraud

Have you or has someone you know been charged with government fraud?

As an example of what this type of fraud is, let’s take a look at the case of Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida. Scott was thrust into the limelight by President Trump.

President Trump suggested that Scott was part of a Republican team that would draft a health care replacement plan. The plan is supposed to take the best parts of “Obamacare” and replace the undesirable parts like higher rates and deductibles.

The problem for Senator Scott is that the company he helped found, Columbia/HCA, one of the largest hospital networks in the country, was involved in a Medicare fraud scandal.

Columbia ended up being fined $1.7 billion by the Department of Justice in the late 1990s. In addition, it was the largest healthcare fraud settlement in U.S. history at that time.

Government Fraud

Medicare fraud is just one of the ways an individual or entity – like Scott’s former company – can commit government fraud.

Fraud perpetrated against the federal government can be fraud in connection with:

  • Federal government contracting
  • Fraud in connection with federal programs or federally-funded entitlement programs. Programs include Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, Welfare and Unemployment.

Government fraud may include fraud associated with:

  • Public housing
  • Agricultural programs
  • Educational programs, and
  • Defense procurement. 

How Does Government Fraud Look?

Investigations into government fraud center on:

  • Bribery in contracts or procurement
  • Collusion among contractors
  • False certification of quality, of parts, or test results, false billing or double billing, or the substitution of inferior parts.

In the case of Columbia/HCA, the company admitted to committing fourteen felonies. These felonies were all related to fraudulent billing and practices designed to get more money from the federal government through Medicaid.

Among other practices, Columbia/HCA made patients look sicker than they were to get higher payments from Medicare. The company gave kickbacks to doctors so they would refer patients.

Additionally, Columbia/HCA was found to have kept two sets of books.

In its most basic form, government fraud is lying to the federal government in order to receive funding for which you don’t qualify.

Potential Penalties for Government Fraud

Government fraud is a broad term. The different potential penalties are numerous.

However, since it is impossible to commit fraud by accident – the act of fraud involves knowingly deceiving the federal government – the prosecutor must prove intent.

Penalties for fraud depend greatly upon how much material gain was made by the defendant as a result of his or her activities.

The focus of prosecutors in cases of fraud is to compel the defendant to make equitable restitution.

The government may seize any assets or property a defendant gained as a result of fraud.

It can also force a defendant to sell assets to recover its losses or garnish a defendant’s wages.

In addition, defendants may face a prison sentence for fraud, even though most sentences involve fines and restitution.

The federal sentencing guidelines are ruled by a point system that increases the number of points according to the level of loss and other aggravating factors.

Finally, if a defendant’s actions created a high enough “score” imprisonment may be warranted.

Defense: Consult With an Experienced Federal Fraud Attorney

Unfortunately, we are lead to believe through stories like that of Senator Scott that government fraud is widespread in many forms.

Taxpayer dollars are lost when individuals and corporations commit fraud. As a result, that is why there are serious financial repercussions for this crime.

In conclusion, if you are facing federal fraud charges, it’s vital that you employ an experienced federal criminal attorney.

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