Friday, February 6, 2009

Medicare And Tax Fraud: DA's Office Charges Physician -- Lesson On Bail And Importance Of Hiring Attorney During Investigation Phase

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office reported that a Buena Park physician John S. Han who operates Pain Medical Center in Norwalk and his wife Sonya Han were arrested at their home. During the arrest, Franchise Tax Board (FTB) special agents executed a search warrant and seized more than $514,000 in cash and cashier checks.

The felony complaint charges Dr. Han with 16 state counts of grand theft for allegedly false Medicare claims totally $22,296. This is small in comparison to the allegation that Dr. Han billed Medicare for more than $10 million in services between 2001 to 2005. The bail set on Dr. and Mrs. Han was high. He is being held on $2.4 million bail. She is being held on $1.3 million bail.

As attorneys who protect people's rights under the Constitution, please remember that an indictment or felony complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in court.

This is a joint investigation between the District Attorney’s Office, the United States Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) and FTB. This case shows a recent trend of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office cooperating with federal health care authorities.

The federal government normally would not charge Medicare fraud for a loss of $22,000. The state, however, will charge for these amounts. Although we do not know the facts of this case, this doctor’s pain management clinic may have also been a red flag that brought the government to investigate him.

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Commentary Regarding Bail And Importance Of Obtaining Representation Long Before Charges Are Filed:

First, bail is an important factor in criminal cases. It is much more difficult to represent someone and prepare their defense while they are incarcerated. This is a bigger problem with state cases, in contrast to federal cases, since the District Attorney’s Offices have a stronger tendency to set a high bail in white collar and fraud cases. In state cases, we see bail being used as a weapon and a way to ensure that the client spends some time in jail since often these cases can end in probation or minimal jail time. One problem that is not the District Attorney’s fault is that the felony bail schedules in state court use the amount of loss as a baseline for the amount of bail.

In this case, the alleged unpaid taxes were used to set the bail amount. It is often difficult to raise this amount of bail and it can take some time to get a full bail hearing and get the bail reduced to a manageable level. Bail is supposed to depend upon whether the person is a flight risk, is at risk to the community and community ties.

Setting a high bail makes it difficult for the professional to be able to work while the case is pending, makes it almost impossible for him or her to help prepare a defense in a document intensive case and complicates the case significantly. For example, since this case does not allege any patient care issues, the doctor normally would be able to continue to operate his medical office while charges are pending even though he or his attorney would need to inform the Medical Board of the pending charges. A doctor's medical practice could fall apart during an incarceration period of any significant length.

Second, if you think you are under investigation, it is important to get an attorney at an early stage. Even while your attorney is trying to persuade them why criminal charges should not be brought, they can make contact with the prosecuting agencies and establish a record that you are aware of the investigation, have no intent to flee and are willing to self-surrender. These letters and contacts help significantly in reducing the bail amount. If you are originally from a foreign country, the attorney can offer to hold your passport and demonstrate no intention to leave the U.S. In addition, the attorney can work on getting a bail package in advance before charges are filed that will satisfy the court that no illegal proceeds are being used for bail.

There is usually evidence of an investigation which one should not ignore. Things showing an investigation include: visits by government investigators, interviews of known persons, audits and other contacts. You will not make a criminal case happen by hiring an attorney who can find out if the case is being handled civilly, administratively or criminally. It is important to assess the case as early as possible and see what damage control needs to be done. Do not stick your head in the sand and hope it all goes away. These types of cases are very stressful for the individuals and having an attorney to handle those issues for you will help you deal with a pending investigation.

Posted by Tracy Green, Esq. Any questions or comments should be directed to: Tracy Green is a principal at Green and Associates. She is highly experienced in bail matters in state and federal court, and is an experienced Los Angeles health care fraud attorney, Los Angeles physician attorney, and Los Angeles Medicare fraud attorney. Green and Associates is located in Los Angeles, California.

The firm focuses its practice on the representation of licensed professionals, individuals and businesses in civil, business, administrative and criminal proceedings. They have a specialty in representing licensed health care providers and in health care fraud related matters in California and throughout the country. Their website is:


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