Medicare Fraud Charges and Medicaid Fraud Charges: Inmate-Attorney Confidentiality Issues?

Medicare Fraud Charges and Medicaid Fraud Charges:  Emailing Your Attorney

computerA doctor arrested for Medicare fraud charges and false billings is concerned that information relevant to his case may be intercepted by prison officials. His attorneys are now complaining that inmate-attorney confidentiality is being violated, which prevents his defense team from gathering information they need to fight the Medicare fraud charges and prepare for trial.

Dr. Syed Imran Ahmed, 49, was arrested this past spring on health care fraud charges after he allegedly submitted multiple false billings to Medicare. Prosecutors contend that Ahmed allegedly collected millions of dollars by defrauding the government healthcare program, spread out over seven bank accounts.

“As alleged, Ahmed created phantom medical procedures to steal very real taxpayer money. The defendant sought to enrich himself and fund his lifestyle through billing Medicare for services he never performed,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “We are committed to protecting these taxpayer-funded programs and prosecuting those who steal from them.”

A recent New York Times article, however, highlighted a growing problem in the federal prison system that prevents confidential communications between federal defense attorneys and their clients – a problem that is holding up Ahmed’s attorneys’ investigation on behalf of their client. Emails, posted mail, and phone calls are all closely monitored by screeners, although prisoners should be allowed to speak off the record with their defense attorneys.

Dr. Ahmed’s lead attorney, Morris J. Fodeman, said that a paralegal left eight voicemails over the course of four days in an attempt to arrange an unmonitored phone call with their client, but the requests never went anywhere. “It’s very troubling that the government’s pushing to the margins of the attorney-client relationship,” said Ellen C. Yaroshefsky, a professor at the Cardozo School of Law.

Email is an important method of communication between inmates and their attorneys, Mr. Fodeman claims, because unmonitored phone calls and arranged in-person visits are a financial drain on the government. Fodeman, a public defender, is paid by the government at a rate of $125 per hour, and one in-person visit to Ahmed takes at least 5 hours round-trip.

Federal regulations allow regular mail sent to prisons to be marked as privileged if it comes from an attorney, and “email, particularly in the 21st century, has effectively replaced U.S. Postal Service mail for most communications, and this court should not treat it differently than traditional mail,” lawyers in a separate case wrote. In June, Judge Dora L. Irizarry ruled that the prison’s refusal to assist Dr. Ahmed’s defense attorneys with setting up confidential communications was holding up the Medicare fraud trial, and prosecutors would be barred “from looking at any of the attorney-client emails, period.”

Although inmate-attorney communications have been used successfully in trials before, the practice is technically illegal and such evidence should not be submitted as part of a discovery. Especially in sensitive federal cases such as Medicare fraud, it is important to focus on admissible evidence in the case.

Medicare Fraud and Medicaid Fraud Charges

Whether the claim arises during a qui tam case, or you are contacted by the U.S. Attorney’s office, being charged with Medicare Fraud or Medicaid Fraud is serious.  If you are accused of Medicare fraud, Medicaid Fraud, or even prescribing medications beyond your authorization, your livelihood and your professional license may be at risk.  We offer free consultations.  803.252.4800

About Pete Strom

Defending criminal charges including drug crimes, DUI, CDV, mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, computer crimes, money laundering, and juvenile crimes, Pete also handles Federal and State investigations. Representing individuals in Civil Matters including Class Actions, Personal Injury, Qui Tam Actions, Defective Products, Nursing Home Neglect, and Professional Licensing Defense cases. Joseph Preston “Pete” Strom, Jr., the managing partner at Strom Law Firm, L.L.C., has been fighting for justice since 1984.

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