Friday, August 01, 2014

Disability benefits fraud convictions affirmed

US v. Perry:  Christopher Perry received three convictions for Social Security fraud, federal health benefit program fraud, and health care fraud.  He had begin receiving benefits in 1996 or 1997 under the proviso that if his medical condition improved such that he could work or if he returned to work, he would report this to the Social Security Administration (“SSA”).

Perry, however, began working in 1996, and between 1996 and 2006, he worked for a variety of companies.  When the SSA made inquiries about Perry’s income from other sources, Perry either did not respond or he reported that he was not receiving income other than his disability payments.  In 2007, Perry was accepted into the Federal Career Intern Program, a training program for the SSA, to become a Benefits Technical Examiner - - while he continued to submit claims for Medicare benefits.  In 2009, SSA canceled Perry’s benefits after he failed to respond to two further employment inquiries.

When the government charged Perry with three counts of fraud, he moved to dismiss the indictment, which the district court denied, but it ordered the government to file a bill of particulars, “to delineate specifically the employment Defendant ha[d] failed to report.”  The government responded by identifying Perry’s various employers since 1996.  At trial, a jury found Perry guilty on all counts.

On appeal, Perry made several challenges to the indictment as well as the sufficiency of the evidence for one of the counts.  The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment, finding that the indictment was sufficient to apprise Perry of the charges against him and identify the elements of the crimes charged.  According to the Fourth Circuit, the indictment tracked the statutory language, provided specific details about the nature of the charges, and identified the “event” that triggered Perry’s disclosure obligations.  Perry also argued that the indictment failed to allege specific intent to defraud, but the Fourth Circuit found intent to defraud was charged in each count.  Additionally, Perry argued that the indictment was time-barred under the statute of limitations.  A five-year statute of limitation operated here; the district court found that the charged offenses were “continuing offenses” and part of a course of conduct, which constituted the violation.  Finally, in his challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence on the health care fraud count, the Fourth Circuit found that the government presented evidence showing that Perry knew he had a duty to report employment to the SSA, as well as evidence from Perry’s training to be a Benefits Technical Examiner, including training on the receipt and termination of benefits.  This evidence, according to the Fourth Circuit was sufficient for a rational jury to find Perry guilty of health care fraud.

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