Articles Posted in Law Enforcement

George Tompkins , a Texas pharmacist from Houston, was recently given a 10-year prison term after a jury convicted him of multiple felony counts, including health care fraud, money laundering and wire fraud.  Known as the “compound king”, the 75-year-old was also convicted of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks.  Mr. Tomkins was first arraigned on the 17-count indictment back in February 2018.

The evidence received by the court during the 6-day jury trial suggested that Mr. Tompkins, working with others, devised a health care prescription fraud scheme whereby they unlawfully received almost twenty-two million dollars in government payments for prescriptions that were medically unnecessary. The money was paid to Tomkins by the Department of Labor, and most of the prescriptions were given to patients referred to them by and through their contract to provide such services to state and federal employees. The payments were contracted through the Federal Employees Compensation Act program (FECA).  Many hundreds of patients were involved in this prescription fraud scheme.

To assist in their criminal enterprise, Mr. Tompkins and his cohorts created a couple different shell companies through which much of the fraud was run.  They used these companies to launder their ill-gotten proceeds. Part of the fraud involved continuing to ship prescriptions to their “patients” even after they had repeatedly been told to stop sending them.

The short answer is yes. There is no Michigan law specifically on this topic and the existing laws in Michigan do not otherwise preclude the wearing of a Covid-19 facemask while otherwise carrying a firearm in Michigan.

In Michigan, the Covid-19 Pandemic has brought significant changes and restrictions to Michiganders.  One of the often-debated pandemic guidelines is the requirement to wear a facemask. Currently, there is no absolute rule on the facemask requirement, and the guidelines on this topic vary between counties, municipalities, stores, and restaurants to wear facemasks.  While the actual scientific merits of the facemask requirements may remain up for debate, it also leads to significant questions of legality.

One of the questions frequently asked of the Michigan Gun Lawyers at the Barone Defense Firm is whether a person carrying a firearm can do so legally while wearing a facemask.  Obviously, wearing a facemask while carrying a pistol into the local Kroger feels like you are going to rob the place, but is it illegal?

One of the many unintended consequences of the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic may well be a significant increase in financial fraud. This is due in part to the central banks lowering of the prime interest rate to zero percent. With money this “cheap” companies and individuals are encouraged to borrow money, which is all well and good until the money must be repaid. And when money is cheap, individuals may use the money they have borrowed recklessly, taking greater risks of loss.

Financial fraud occurs when an individual or corporation offers to provide goods, services, or financial benefits knowing that that these things do not and may never exist. In these situations, the victims of financial fraud trade money for these benefits, but never receive what’s been promised to them.  This is because the perpetrators of the financial fraud know that the benefits  do not exist, were never intended to be provided, or were misrepresented. Typically, victims give money but never receive what they paid for.

Possibly the most famous historical example of financial fraud occurred in the 1870s and is referred to as a “Ponzi scheme.”  Charles Ponzi was a businessman and financier who created the Securities and Exchange Company.  Using this as a front to defraud, Mr. Ponzi took money from investors, and then, after a mere 45 days, promised to return to them a 50% profit.  Trouble was that the money was never “invested.” Ponzi simply took the new money he was being paid today to pay off the older investors.  Also called a “pyramid scheme” a Ponzi scheme can only last so long, and like all Ponzi schemes, it eventually collapsed.

A Michigan chef has been accused of domestic violence by at least 7 different women, the Detroit News has reported. The Macomb County prosecuting attorney has charged him in at least one case involving his former wife.

According to Michigan domestic violence lawyers at the Barone Defense Firm, the term “domestic violence” refers to a specific kind of assault and/or battery; one where the accused has or had a domestic relationship or dating relationship of some kind with the alleged victim. Specifically, the applicable Michigan Compiled Laws section 750.81 provides that a domestic violence occurs when an individual assaults or assaults and batters any of the following:

  • Someone to whom they are or were married,

As part of an ongoing investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigations, several of Michigan’s pharmacists have been charged with Medicare and Medicaid Prescription Fraud.  The allegations include claims that at least one scheme lead to the defrauding of the Federal Government of more than five million dollars. Further, that fraudulent claims were submitted to Medicare, Medicaid and Blue Cross via the service dialdrugspharmacy.com. Medications fraudulently prescribed included Clozapine and Alprazolam. According to the complaint, some of these prescriptions were written for dead people.

According to Title 18 of the United States Code, health care fraud consists of the knowing implementation (or attempted implementation) of a scheme intended to defraud a health care program using false pretenses. A pharmacist can violate this law even if they are ignorant of the law itself, or if they only have the “general intent” to violate the law. This is because health care fraud under this section is not a specific intent crime. The law defines “fraud” as being the intentional deception or misrepresentation of facts which lead to the receiving of an unauthorized benefit. But here again the intent need only be general and not specific. According to the Michigan prescription fraud lawyers at the Barone Defense Firm, this can lead to unfair prosecution of pharmacists who never specifically intended to violate the law.

There are many kinds of prescription fraud.  Once type of prescription fraud involves a scheme whereby a prescription is set on “auto-refill” and then billed as scheduled when the patient never actually ordered or wanted the medication. These prescriptions are never picked up but the pharmacy non-the-less bills Medicare. This same medication can be “re-sold” many times over, thereby increasing the size of the auto-refill fraud. Another version of this kind of fraud involves giving the undelivered pills to patients, staff or medical sales reps for redistribution. This is most common with Opioid drugs that have significant street value.

Allowing the sale of pre-made cocktails and other types of alcoholic beverages to be sold carry-out may increase the numbers of drunk drivers on Michigan’s roads. However, because the answer to how carry out liquor sales will impact instances of DUI is not clear-cut, only time will tell if this potential for increased DUI becomes reality.

A good argument can be made that the new carry-out laws will have zero impact on DUI in Michigan. But these arguments assume that the bars and restaurants will be keeping a close eye on their patrons after the carry-out sale is made. If the persons consuming the alcohol are under less scrutiny from the persons selling it, and therefore less likely to get “cut off” before becoming intoxicated, then the new law may create a greater likelihood of drunk drivers.

The covid-19 restrictions imposed by Governor Whitmer have hurt the bottom line for all of Michigan’s bars and restaurants, and these new bills are intended in part to create a new stream of revenue and help these small businesses survive. For example, as quoted in the Detroit Free Press, Ben Giovanelli, who is the president of the Rochester Downtown Development Authority, believes that outdoor sales will be the key to survival for many bars and restaurants, who are still only allowed to operate at half-capacity.  Social districts can help make up the difference.

Provided you did not drink enough of the wine to become impaired or intoxicated, the only potential ramifications of driving home with your unfinished open bottle is that you could be charged with possessing or transporting open intoxicants in a motor vehicle. This crime is often simply called “open intox” or “open alcohol in a car.” Avoiding this charge is easy if you know the law. So, before we discuss how to avoid picking up a charge for open intoxicants in a motor vehicle, let’s first make sure you understand the law.

Michigan Penalties for Open Intoxicants in a Motor Vehicle

In Michigan it is illegal to possess or transport alcohol that is open, or uncapped, or where the seal has been broken within the passenger area of the car. ‘Open’ most often refers to a can where the tab has been popped, or a cup that contains alcohol. ‘Uncapped’ refers to a bottle top that has been removed.  ‘Broken seal’ refers to a twist of cap, or similar top, or cork that has been opened previously and replaced. The ‘passenger area’ means any area that is readily accessible to the driver or a passenger(s) from their seats, including the glove compartment and center console.

Police Car Dash-Cam Video and DUI/OWI Cases

Most police agencies in Michigan use dash-cams to record citizen interactions. This means that if you’ve been arrested for DUI/OWI in Michigan, there is an excellent change that a dash-cam video exists.

Every drunk driving arrest is different, and not every video recording is the same.  However, this video may capture all the interaction you had with the police, beginning with an audio of the officer’s first words to you as you were sitting in your car after being stopped. Next, the video may show you stepping out of the car and then walking to the rear and waiting for the officer to give you instructions on the field sobriety tasks.  If the officer asked you to state the alphabet, count backwards, pick a number, etc., then your responses these requests may also be captured on the audio portion of the video recording.  Also, it may be possible to determine how well you performed on the walk and turn and the one leg stand tasks.  Finally, a careful observation of the video recording will allow your attorney to determine if the officer followed his or her training regarding these tests, and particularly, if the officer properly administered the horizonal gaze nystagmus test.

This video recording could be the most important piece of evidence in your case, so it is important to be sure that your attorney requests that it not be destroyed and that a copy of it be provided to you.  A failure to do so could result in the video recording being destroyed.  Because many departments have policies regarding how long video records are kept, a failure to make a timely request could also result in the destruction of this important evidence.

Detroit Cops Admonished by Federal Judge for Lying Under Oath

Any experienced criminal defense attorney, and any honest judge, will tell you that police lie under oath.  A lot.  In fact, lying under oath is so common that it’s been given a name “tesilying.”  This is such a common problem that a recent New York Times article discussing the prevalence of tesilying called it “a stubborn problem.”  In fact, lying under oath is so prevalent that, upon starting a trial, one federal judge in Detroit is fond of saying “let the testimony begin.”

A published case that demonstrates this problem quite nicely is United States v. Smith.  In this case two City of Detroit Police Officers testified at a suppression hearing on charges of felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).  In this case, the police encountered a truck that was parked next to the curb on Brentwood Street.  The question at the suppression hearing was whether the police had probable cause to approach the car, question, search and arrest, the occupants.

Two Officers testified at the hearing, but their testimony was inconsistent.  In setting forth its opinion, the court first indicated that: “When faced with a motion to suppress based on the Fourth Amendment, the Government must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the police conduct did not amount to an unreasonable search and seizure. See United States v. Matlock, 415 U.S. 164, 177 n.14 (1974).”

Legality of Recording Police Officers in Michigan

Recent stories of police misconduct have led to many citizens recording police activity. They often do so to prove the police officer acted inappropriately. But is it legal?

The short answer is yes, but it depends on where the conversation or activity is taking place. In Michigan, there are two laws that deal with the recording of any conversation or activity, even those involving the police. The first is a wiretapping law stating it is illegal to willfully or maliciously wiretap an electronic device including a smartphone or computer to record activity or a conversation. This is a felony that carries a sentence of up to two years in prison and/or a fine of $1,000 but it is not the type of recording most people consider when they record the police.

These situations typically include videotaping or recording a police officer dealing with a member of the public. And this would fall under Michigan’s eavesdropping law. Under this law it is illegal for any person to record a private conversation or use a device that can help them listen in on a private conversation taking place between other people. This is also a felony that could carry a sentence of up to two years in prison, and/or a fine of $2,000. But the key word within this statute is private.

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