Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Court Defines Scope of Search Warrant in Health Care Fraud Investigation

US v. Srivastava: Srivastava was a doctor under investigation for health care fraud. As part of that investigation, investigators obtained search warrants for Srivastava's two offices and his home. The warrant for his home was based on information that much of the billing paperwork was handled there. Investigators executed the warrants, seizing numerous personal documents at his home (they returned 80% of what was seized there). Among the documents seized from Srivastava's home were documents showing financial transfers to the Bank of India. Following that lead, investigators determined that Srivastava had filed false income tax returns. As a result, Srivastava was indicted on two counts of tax evasion and one count of making false statements on a tax return. Srivastava moved to suppress the evidence discovered in his home, arguing that they were personal, not business documents, and beyond the scope of the items the warrant authorized investigators to seize. The district court agreed, suppressing all the evidence seized during the three searches.

The Government appealed and the Fourth Circuit reversed. The court concluded that the documents seized at Srivastava's home was within the scope of the warrant. Specifically, the warrant allowed the seizure of "financial" documents which, given the nature of Srivastava's medical practice, covered personal as well as business documents. The court also concluded that the documents fell within the warrant's scope that the only documents seized be those that "may constitute evidence of [health care fraud]." The court also concluded that the district court's blanket suppression order, covering all the evidence seized during the three searches, was an abuse of discretion.

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