Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Valladares: 35 days is enough to prepare for Medicare fraud trial

In U.S. v. Valladares, No. 07-14592 (Oct. 9, 2008), the Court upheld the conviction and sentence of a defendant convicted of defrauding Medicare by bribing doctors to prescribe medically unnecessary medication.
The Court rejected Valladares’ argument that the district court abused its discretion when it denied her request for a continuance of the trial. The trial began 35 days after arraignment. The Court noted that the government had identified all the documents it intended to use. Further, Valladares failed to show how other billing records, if presented by her at trial, would have changed the outcome of the case.
Turning to the sentencing issues, the Court rejected the argument that the district court erred in using the commercial bribery guideline in USSG § 2B4.1 instead of the fraud guideline of § 2B1.1 to determine the base offense level. The Court noted that this case involved "fraud achieved through bribery" rather than "straight bribery" and the district court therefore applied the correct guideline.
The Court rejected the argument that fraud in which Valladares used her company in the scheme could not be counted for sentence enhancement purposes, or for calculating the restitution amount, finding that this part of the scheme was part of the "relevant conduct."
Finally, the Court rejected the argument that Ex Post Facto principles barred the imposition of forfeiture for the portion of the conspiracy that predated the effective date of one of the statutes of conviction. The Court noted that no Ex Post Facto violation occurs when a conspiracy does not end until after a statute takes effect.