Previously, we published a blog examining healthcare fraud and how federal sentencing guidelines apply to those convicted. In that blog, we focused primarily on the loss amount and how it directly impacts sentencing and restitution. To take it one step further, consider the different people who could be involved in the commission of this crime. For example, a receptionist at the medical facility may have been involved with that office in committing healthcare fraud, but their role in the offense is, likely, significantly lower than the medical practitioners or facility owners who planned and organized the crime. The court considers the degree to which someone was involved in a crime during sentencing, or someone’s “role”. Determining someone’s role in an offense helps a judge determine an appropriate sentence.
Having a Minor Role
When we use the term “minor role,” we look specifically through the lens of someone involved in a larger criminal enterprise. In this context, it does not apply to someone accused of committing a minor offense. The individual’s role must be compared to those involved in the offense in order to ascertain whether that person’s role was minor. To go back to the example of the receptionist, this person didn’t lead the crime, but they did facilitate it. If the receptionist was charged with conspiracy, because they facilitated healthcare fraud, their actions and role would be lesser than those who led it, or were more involved. Their attorney may focus on advocating for a role reduction under the federal sentencing guidelines.
This could easily translate to someone charged in an organized drug operation, where several factions perform different crime components. Some people may have been responsible for bringing drugs into the country, others for transporting them, and a separate group for physically distributing the drugs. Though these are all criminal acts, the individual who brought the drugs into the country may not receive the same punishment as the person, or people, who oversaw the entire operation.
How It Can Be Proven
There could be quantifiable and tangible evidence that speaks to someone’s level of involvement. Because healthcare fraud can generate millions of illegally-obtained dollars, the receptionist’s attorney may show how much, or little, money the receptionist made from their involvement. Though this is a fictitious example, the receptionist could have received an extra $1000 in “overtime” each paycheck for knowingly drafting fraudulent documents. Those with a larger handle on the crime’s conception and execution may have made significantly more. (If the receptionist were unaware that they were committing fraud because their superiors were deceiving them, then a criminal defense attorney would likely have a completely different approach to the case.)
While the ultimate decision as to role is up to the Judge, Judges are acutely aware of the reduction one can receive for their role in an offense. A presentence report will be created by the probation department for the judge. The report will detail the facts of the case and defendant. During this time, they may speak to the defendant (with your attorney present) and the prosecutor. The probation officer can recommend that the judge award a role reduction.
Prosecutors understand this too, and, when all the information shows that a defendant had a minor role, they may not challenge the reduction. Again, this is something your attorney would advocate for on your behalf.
Speak with a Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with a crime, including healthcare fraud, where you believe you had a minor role, contact the compassionate and highly-skilled attorneys of Puglisi Caramés by scheduling a free consultation. We want to learn more about the specific details of your case, so we can create a defense that protects you and your rights.