Last week the former president of Riverside General Hospital in Houston was sentenced to 45 years in prison and ordered to pay restitution in excess of $46 million for his role in a $158 million Medicare fraud scheme involving illegal kickbacks and referrals for intensive outpatient psychiatric services. His son received a 20-year sentence while a co-conspirator was sentenced to 12 years in prison. The length of the sentences in the Riverside case are part of a trend of longer prison terms for white collar crimes in general. Closer to home in the Middle District of Tennessee in Nashville, Brian Whitfield, the former leader of an employee payroll and benefits firm, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for defrauding the government and clients of $20 million.
Last September, Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell said that the Department of Justice would be increasing its “commitment to criminal investigations and prosecutions that stem from allegations in False Claims Act lawsuits” She noted that the Criminal Division had implemented a procedure “so that all new complaints are shared by the Civil Division with the Criminal Division as soon as the cases are filed.” These significant sentences, coupled with Caldwell’s announcement make it clear that DOJ was not making empty promises, and intends to aggressively investigate, prosecute and where successful seek long prison terms, in white collar cases, particularly in the area of healthcare fraud.