Tampa COVID-19 Fraud Defense Litigation Lawyer
The government response to the coronavirus pandemic has included new and expanded relief programs for American workers, families and businesses. In the chaos that comes with government creation of new programs or changes to the rules in existing programs, individual entrepreneurs and businesses wishing to take part in accessing these funds or facilitating others in obtaining government benefits have been swept up and accused of fraudulent activity. The federal white collar criminal defense attorneys of Trombley & Hanes, P.A. have decades of experience representing individuals and businesses accused of all manner of fraud, including government fraud in areas of healthcare, government contracting and more. The firm defends those accused of fraud related to COVID-19 relief programs such as the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loans, and the CARES Act. In addition, the firm provides vigorous defense of individuals charged with fraud or criminal activity in the following areas related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Healthcare Fraud – vaccine fraud, testing and treatment
Since the start of the pandemic, the US has fostered an “all hands on deck” approach to coronavirus testing and has encouraged public and private companies to develop COVID-19 vaccines as well as testing methods to detect the presence of antibodies. Private enterprise has responded with numerous solutions, but not all have yet been through the process of FDA approval.
Tests and treatments could be considered fraudulent in at least two different ways – 1) marketing fraudulent or unapproved antibody tests and vaccines that might not be effective or haven’t been evaluated by the FDA for effectiveness, 2) obtaining personal information, including health information, from consumers for the purpose of medical insurance fraud or identity theft.
The FBI has identified the following activities as warning signings of vaccine fraud or antibody testing fraud:
- Claims of FDA approval that can’t be verified
- Ads placed through social media or unsolicited emails & phone calls (telemarketing)
- Marketing that offers free tests or incentives to take tests
- Marketing that says the government requires antibody tests or vaccines
- Practitioners offering to perform tests for cash
Pharmaceutical researchers and companies might develop new and innovative ways of combating COVID-19 or testing for antibodies, and there may be legitimate reasons for businesses to ask for personal information including Medicare or Medicaid numbers to bill providers for testing. But many activities associated with new testing or treatment are also red flags for government agencies battling COVID-19 healthcare fraud. The fraud defense attorneys at Trombley & Hanes, P.A. defend people charged with healthcare fraud related to vaccines, treatment and antibody testing.
IRS and Treasury
To date, the US government has sent out three waves of Economic Impact Payments to eligible taxpayers. The income and eligibility requirements have differed for each round of payments. Individuals or businesses who may be offering technical assistance to taxpayers in determining eligibility or ensuring they receive their proper payments could be erroneously arrested and charged with attempts to intercept EIPs or steal sensitive taxpayer information. Legitimate requests for taxpayer information can be confused with fraudulent phishing emails, texts, social media accounts or websites.
Unemployment Insurance Fraud
Unemployment benefits have expanded greatly during the pandemic, which has led government agencies to step up their investigation and enforcement of unemployment insurance fraud. A National Task Force has been formed, combining the resources of nine different agencies including the Department of Justice, the FBI, Homeland Security, the IRS and the Secret Service.
Unemployment insurance fraud typically involves using stolen identities to open accounts, file fraudulent claims and collect benefits in the name of another person. Fraudsters could obtain personally identifiable information through email or text message phishing scams or by collecting information exposed in a data breach. Individuals or businesses engaged in facilitating individuals with the unemployment claims process for a fee might be unfairly targeted by the government for fraud charges.
Florida Statutes Section 443.701 outlaws the making of a false statement or representation knowing it to be false, or knowingly failing to disclose a material fact, to obtain or increase unemployment benefits. This crime is charged as a felony in the third degree, punishable by up to five years in prison and $5,000 in fines, and each false statement or representation or failure to disclose a material fact constitutes a separate offense that could be punished separately upon conviction.
Vigorous Defense of COVID-19 Fraud Allegations in Tampa and Beyond
For help with COVID-19 Fraud Defense Litigation in Tampa, Florida or nationwide, contact Trombley & Hanes, P.A. in Tampa at 813-229-7918.
Frequently Asked Questions for COVID-19 Fraud Defense Litigation in Tampa, Florida or nationwide
What are the Main Types of COVID-19 Fraud?
The federal government implemented COVID-19 relief plans to help lessen the financial impact of a nationwide shutdown. When it did, there were multiple ways fraud was introduced into the equation, including counterfeit or unapproved medical products claiming to prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19, including fake vaccines, testing kits, treatments, and personal protective equipment (PPE).
Other types of fraud included, but were not limited to, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) fraud, charity donation fraud, phishing and cybers fraud, insurance fraud, and investment fraud. If you have been investigated for, or arrested and charged with any of these offenses, contact our COVID-19 fraud defense attorneys in Tampa today to learn more about your legal rights and defense options.
What are the COVID-19 “Strike Force Teams?”
The Strike Force Teams combine investigative, prosecutorial, and analytical capacities to tackle COVID fraud nationwide. Each strike force includes a Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney, a team of Assistant U.S. Attorneys, along with investigative support analysts and law enforcement agents — including those drawn from the IG community and other federal law enforcement partners such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigation. The initial Strike Force teams will operate out of U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the Southern District of Florida, the District of Maryland, and a joint effort between the Central and Eastern Districts of California.
If you have been contacted by any federal agency associated with the Strike Force teams (or otherwise) regarding your potential involvement in COVID-19 fraud, contact our experienced defense attorneys in Tampa immediately to help ensure your rights are protected from the start of the investigation.
What are the Penalties for COVID-19 Fraud Convictions?
The penalties for COVID-19 fraud convictions vary depending on the specific charges and the severity of the offense. Still, they may include imprisonment, fines, restitution, forfeiture of assets, and damage to your reputation.
What are the Most Common Defenses for COVID-19 Fraud?
All criminal defense strategies are unique to the case’s person, charges, and circumstances. However, they may include lack of intent to defraud, lack of knowledge, unintentional mistakes, errors, or misunderstanding of complex regulations, or evidence that you complied with COVID-19 regulations. Contact our COVID-19 fraud defense lawyers in Tampa today to learn more about creating a customized defense.
Should I Cooperate with Investigators if I am Under Suspicion of COVID-19 Fraud?
Cooperating with a federal agency investigating you for fraud may lead to potential self-incrimination without a skilled COVID-19 fraud defense lawyer in Tampa. Before speaking with investigators, it is crucial to consult with an attorney. Our fraud defense attorneys can help you understand the origin of the investigation and the evidence federal agencies have, so you know your rights and can make informed decisions about the direction of your case.
Can a COVID-19 Fraud Defense Attorney Negotiate a Plea Bargain for My Case?
Negotiations with the U.S. Attorney’s Office may lead to reduced charges in exchange for a guilty plea. However, it is vital to understand the complete terms of a plea bargain to ensure your rights are protected. If we do not believe the U.S. Attorney’s case is strong enough to reach a conviction, we may recommend a trial to produce the best outcome for your case. Your defense strategy will be unique to your case and can only be assessed during a thorough case review.