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Local doctor charged with medicare fraud

Posted on November 01, 2011 3:00 AM EST

A doctor, previously convicted of Medicare fraud back in 1992, has again been arrested for Medicare fraud and drug trafficking. Twenty-three others were also listed in the indictment. The indictment alleges that the group sold prescription medications, mostly pain killers and billed the federal healthcare program millions for prescriptions that never existed. Miami criminal lawyers, either assistant federal public defenders or privately retained counsel, will represent the defendants. Frank Ballesteros, a Miami doctor, is accused of playing a major role in a large scale pill mill operation. The majority of the defendants received a bond in the case, however, the doctor was denied a bond. His lawyer represented him at a pre-trial detention hearing, but was denied bond as the magistrate found him to be a flight risk and a danger to the community.

The Constitution provides everyone the right to a bond. However, like in state court, there are exceptions in federal court. In the majority of the cases, the assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the case will agree to a bond and set an amount depending on the severity of the charges and a defendant's ties to the community. On other occasions, the prosecutor will not agree to a bond. The remedy at that point is to request a pre-trial detention hearing. A magistrate presides over these types of hearings and can either grant a bond and set an amount, or can deny a defendant a bond. The prosecutor will generally proffer the facts of the case with the lead agent assisting in the hearing. The defense lawyer will be permitted to cross examine the lead agent. After testimony is taken, both counsel will argue to the magistrate why a bond is or is not appropriate in the case. The magistrate will then consider a defendant's ties to the community and whether or not the defendant is a danger to the community. If the magistrate finds either, the magistrate will not set a bond and order the defendant detained.

The Drug Enforcement Agency has been cracking down on clinics in South Florida that are illegally distributing oxycodone and other pain killers and arresting those involved with drug trafficking. The clinics are also wrongfully billing Medicare which leads to Medicare fraud arrests. The DEA claims that there are large groups of doctors, clinic owners and pharmacists that are working in concert in these illegal ventures. If caught working together, the defendants will also be charged with conspiracy to traffic in illegal substances and conspiracy to commit Medicare fraud. The special agent in charge was quoted as saying, "Drug trafficking and healthcare fraud are a vile combination, especially when offenders steal from taxpayers to pay for highly addictive, highly profitable street drugs."

The DEA busted five clinics located in Miami, Hialeah, and Plantation. Ballesteros is accused of writing all the phony prescriptions for these clinics. Anyone being investigated or arrested for being involved in a fraudulent clinic or pill mill should retain a defense lawyer experienced in defending these types of cases in federal court. Individuals charged with drug trafficking and Medicare fraud are potentially looking at long prison sentences and should be represented by qualified counsel as the consequences are so dire.

Miami Doctor Charged with Medicare Fraud, Convicted of Same Offense in 1992, Miami Herald.com, October 30, 2011.
Categories: Drug Offenses