Conspiracy to commit fraud and the fraud itself are two different crimes. While both should be taken seriously, the presence of one can escalate the type of punishment that you might receive if found guilty.
Take the recent case of Dr. Jorge Zamora-Quezada, who has been charged by federal authorities with approximately $240 million in healthcare fraud charges.
A Pattern of Misdiagnoses
Dr. Zamora-Quezada is a rheumatologist in the Dallas region. In 2009, the Texas Medical Board penalized him for “fraudulent, repetitive, and excessive medical procedures on patients in order to increase his revenue.”
Following that reprimand, in 2013, Zamora-Quezada, 61, recommended costly knee injections to “strengthen cartilage” for a patient supposedly suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Except she wasn’t. When the injections resulted in discoloration of the legs, it was determined by another doctor the injections had been unnecessary.
The determination plays nicely into the hands of prosecutors bent on proving a pattern of misdiagnoses and unnecessary treatments. It’s this pattern effect that can lead to conspiracy charges.
What Do You Do When Charged with Conspiracy to Commit Fraud?
The first step you should take is to mount your legal defense. That starts with taking a hard look at the facts of the case. Is there merit to the willfulness of the fraud itself?
If willfulness isn’t there, it can be hard to prove the planning portion, which is what can trigger a conspiracy conviction. However, prosecutors have a couple of tools in their arsenal to get the convictions they seek.
Firstly, there is the number of damages. In the doctor’s case, the charges are $240 million — enough to result in serious jail time. Secondly, there is the number of incidents. In Dr. Zamora-Quezada’s case, the $240 million comes from multiple incidents over about a decade.
Defending a case like Zamora-Quezada’s would require a deep dive into each of these incidents. Was there intent in every case or simply negligence? If negligence can be determined, it can result in a downgrade of charges or, in some cases, an all-out dismissal.
The doctor’s case is still playing out, so it’s too early to know what the outcome will be. However, it’s important for anyone charged with conspiracy to commit fraud — or any other crime — to evaluate the incidents, the charges, and their intentions.
An experienced legal strategist like John Teakell can help you mount the best possible defense. Teakell has years of experience in the Dallas legal community arguing conspiracy cases, and he invites you to reach out online or drop by the Dallas office with any questions you may have.