The longest federal sentence ever imposed upon a defendant in a health care fraud case was recently handed down by a federal judge in Texas … to a terminally ill mother of young twins who has advanced breast cancer and a dire prognosis.
Although no commentators are on record contending that the 53-year-old woman — a former owner of a home health company — should be spared punishment for her eight criminal counts faced in a major Medicare scam, plenty of people working within the criminal justice industry are questioning her case outcome.
It was this: 75 years in a federal prison.
That requires some perspective. Reportedly, and prior to the defendant’s case, the longest term ever received by any person in a health care fraud matter was 50 years.
And that individual was the prime participant in a $200 million-plus fraud scheme.
Conversely, the Texas defendant engineered a Medicare scam that was estimated to involve about $13 million in illegal payments and kickbacks.
The sentence severity, notes one national media report spotlighting the story, has legal experts from across the country “scratching their heads.” Government prosecutors had asked for a 35-year term, which was already considered harsh. Moreover, federal sentencing guidelines presented to judges have not been mandatory for nearly a decade.
“[H]ow you get anything close to 75 years is beyond me and makes no sense at all,” said one ex-prosecutor following the sentencing pronouncement.
The judge told the defendant at her sentencing hearing that, while her case outcome was unquestionably harsh, “it’s just the way the system works.”
The woman’s legal team vows to challenge the outcome, arguing that it was excessive and that the sentencing guideline range was inappropriate.