Trump clemency recipient Philip Esformes reaches plea deal in Medicare fraud case

Philanthropist Philip Esformes attends the fifteenth annual Harold & Carole Pump Foundation gala on the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on August 7, 2015 in Century City, California.

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Convicted Medicare fraudster Philip Esformes has reached a plea deal that might resolve a long-running, difficult felony case that has included his 20-year jail sentence being commuted by former President Donald Trump in 2020, court docket filings present.

Terms of Esformes’ plea settlement with the Department of Justice weren’t included in the filings Thursday.

A Miami federal decide scheduled Esformes’ change of plea listening to and sentencing for Feb. 22. A change of plea listening to usually includes a defendant pleading responsible.

Lawyers for Esformes, who’s free on a $50 million bond, didn’t reply to requests for remark.

A DOJ spokesman declined to remark past noting, “Any plea settlement must be accepted by a decide.”

The anticipated plea comes after almost two years of complaints by Esformes’ supporters that federal prosecutors — in searching for to retry him this yr on costs that didn’t outcome in a verdict at his first trial — had been unjustly punishing him due to their anger over Trump’s commutation of his jail time period.

Esformes’ attorneys have stated they’re unaware of every other case in which the DOJ retried a defendant whose felony sentence in the identical case was commuted by a president.

A plea in the case would let Esformes keep away from one other trial — and one other doubtlessly stiff jail sentence if he had been convicted — in addition to appeals that might take years to resolve.

Esformes, who then owned greater than 30 Miami-area nursing and assisted residing amenities, was first charged in July 2016 with what the DOJ referred to as a $1 billion, decades-long Medicare fraud and money-laundering scheme.

Prosecutors on the time stated it was “the biggest single felony well being care fraud case ever introduced in opposition to people” by the DOJ.

“Esformes cycled sufferers by his amenities in poor situation the place they obtained insufficient or pointless remedy, then improperly billed Medicare and Medicaid,” stated Denise Stemen, an F.B.I. deputy particular agent, in 2019.

“Taking his despicable conduct additional, he bribed medical doctors and regulators to advance his felony conduct and even bribed a school official in change for gaining admission for his son to that college,” Stemen stated.

Esformes, who was thought-about a flight threat, was jailed after his arrest and remained there till he went to trial in April 2019.

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At the trial, a jury convicted him of 20 counts, which included conspiracy to defraud the United States, receiving kickbacks, cash laundering, bribery, and obstruction of justice.

But jurors had been unable to succeed in a verdict on six different felony counts.

A decide sentenced Esformes to twenty years in jail and fined him $44 million. Soon after, he appealed his conviction.

After his sentencing, the DOJ confirmed no apparent curiosity in retrying him on the six costs {that a} jury had deadlocked on. Prosecutors routinely won’t search retrials on deadlocked costs in circumstances in which a defendant has been sentenced to vital jail time for crimes they had been convicted of.

But the DOJ’s stance on Esformes after Trump commuted his jail time period, however not his financial high-quality, as a part of a slew of different commutations and pardons the Republican president issued in his closing weeks in workplace in late 2020 and early 2021 to scores of federal convicts.

The DOJ in April 2021 stated it will search to retry Esformes on the six deadlocked counts.

That choice was condemned by Esformes’ supporters who noticed it as an end-run round Trump’s commutation order, and a bunch of former Republican U.S. attorneys normal backed his effort to keep away from retrial.

Esformes’ attorneys argued that the retrial was barred as a result of it will violate Trump’s clemency order and likewise the double jeopardy clause of the U.S. Constitution. They additionally argued it was barred due to prosecutorial misconduct associated to prosecutors reviewing privileged communications with Esformes’ attorneys earlier than trial.

Joseph Tacopina, a New York felony protection legal professional, instructed CNBC in August 2022 that “there isn’t any query in my thoughts that the [DOJ’s} flagrant disregard of President Trump’s clemency order is motivated by acrimony towards him.” Tacopina said that prosecutors had “an obvious vendetta” against Trump due to the Esformes’ commutation.

“He’s clearly a political casualty of partisan games,” the lawyer said of Esformes.

Tacopina later represented Trump in a New York criminal case, and a civil lawsuit, but recently ended his work for the former president.

The DOJ in court filings has noted that a commutation of a prison sentence, which releases a prison, is not the same as pardoning a defendant, which removes their criminal conviction. Prosecutors also said that Trump’s commuting of Esformes’ prison sentence did not bar them from retrying him on the criminal counts that jurors deadlocked on.

“If President Trump had intended to grant Esformes a pardon, or if the President had intended to grant Esformes clemency on the hung counts, he would have communicated as much in the clemency warrant,” prosecutors wrote in an appeals court brief.

Last year, an Atlanta federal appeals court rejected Esformes’ appeal of his original conviction in 2019. The same appeals court panel said it would not decide the question of whether a second trial on the deadlock counts was barred by Trump’s clemency because there had not yet been a verdict on those counts.

In December, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Esformes’ appeal in the case, a rejection that cleared the way for him to be retried in 2024 on the remaining charges.

That retrial would be canceled if Esformes follows through on the plan to plead in the case, as revealed in Thursday’s court filing.

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