Medicare Fraud Muddled Judges Get Mad, Confused in Convictions' Appeals
LoMonte, Frank, The Florida Times Union
ATLANTA -- Attorneys for a pair of convicted co-conspirators in
the Healthmaster Medicare fraud case found judges alternately
combative and confused yesterday as they tried to sort out a
tangle of corporate money transfers.
Dennis J. Kelly and David W. Suba asked three judges at the
11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to void their July 1995
convictions for siphoning more than $1.7 million out of Medicare
and order a new trial.
The pair were charged, along with their boss, Jeanette G.
Garrison, of profiteering off nurses' visits to elderly patients
by submitting padded bills to the government.
Garrison, a major Democratic Party contributor, made a pretrial
agreement to testify against her co-defendants in exchange for a
lighter, 33-month sentence.
Kelly went to trial and got a 151-month federal prison
sentence, while Suba was ordered to serve 59 months, and both
were hit with hefty fines and restitution.
Judge James C. Hill was incredulous when attorneys for Kelly,
the former chief financial officer of Augusta-based Healthmaster
claimed the government failed to prove Kelly knew the money he
was taking came from Medicare.
"What did they do with the money that launched boats and things
-- was that just extra money lying around?" Hill asked,
referring to testimony that Kelly used loans intended for
Healthmaster to buy pleasure boats for himself and his brother.
Later, a laughing Hill told one of Kelly's lawyers, "Y'know,
this case reminds me of the guy who sued the county for leaving
the jail door open and he fell and got hurt. He said the
temptation to escape was too great.
"This pile of Medicare money is proving an awfully big
temptation for a lot of people."
The judges were more sympathetic to the claims of co-defendant
Suba, Healthmaster's inhouse insurance risk manager.
Suba's lawyer, Richard Allen of Augusta, acknowledged his
client's consulting business benefited from free office space
and other financing from Garrison and Healthmaster.
But Allen said Suba had no way of knowing that Garrison and her
finance experts were then billing Medicare for those costs. …