Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Medicare Fraud Muddled Judges Get Mad, Confused in Convictions' Appeals

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Medicare Fraud Muddled Judges Get Mad, Confused in Convictions' Appeals

Article excerpt

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. …

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