North Broward Hospital District Settles Allegations
North Broward Hospital District has reached an agreement with federal authorities to resolve allegations that the district violated the False Claims Act. The district (which runs hospitals and healthcare facilities in Broward County) has agreed to pay nearly $70 million as part of an agreement with the federal government that will resolve claims that the district had developed “improper financial relationships” with referring physicians.
What Activity Did the District Allegedly Engage In?
The federal False Claims Act is designed to prevent individuals and companies from engaging in conduct designed to defraud the federal government. The False Claims Act covers potential defendants who receive money from the federal government as well as defendants who owe money to the federal government (other than federal taxes). According to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, the North Broward Hospital District allegedly overpaid nine physicians for their services in exchange for the physicians referring patients to the district.
The alleged fraudulent activity came to light after a whistleblower alerted authorities to the alleged improper arrangement. The False Claims Act encourages whistleblowers to report suspected fraudulent activity to government authorities by allowing private citizens to file a suit under the Act on behalf of the government. Whistleblowers who do so and whose suits are successful are able to receive a portion of whatever amount is recovered from the accused.
The U.S. Justice Department indicates that, since 2009, it has recovered a total of $25 billion through the False Claims Act, with $16 billion coming from cases of suspected health care fraud.
Federal vs. State Fraud Charges
There are a number of statutes that can create civil and criminal liability for individuals and entities that are alleged to engage in fraudulent activity. Similar to the language of the False Claims Act, “fraudulent activity” can include activity that is ultimately designed to obtain more money from a federal program than one would otherwise be entitled to as well as activity that is aimed at reducing the amount of money an individual or entity owes to a federal agency. A key element in many federal and state fraud charges is intent – in other words, the prosecution must typically prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual or entity engaged in the fraudulent activity with an intention to defraud the government or some other entity. An “honest mistake” – where the individual misreported a figure on a form, for example, or made a mistake in filing a claim with a federal program but did not do so intentionally – is usually not able to be punished criminally.
Contact Jeffrey S. Weiner for Help Resolving Fraud Charges
Federal criminal defense attorney Jeffrey S. Weiner has represented numerous clients charged with committing fraudulent schemes and activities. He knows the best defense usually consists of evidence establishing the accused’s lack of intent to defraud. He vigorously defends his client’s reputation and protects their freedom. Contact his office today by calling (305) 670-9919 if you have been charged with fraud or believe you may be facing fraud charges.