FIRST UPDATE — in much more serious news, fellow blogger and friend David Lat (the creator of Above the Law) tested positive for COVID-19 and has been placed on a ventilator. His condition is critical. I know I speak for everyone when I say that we are thinking of him and his family and wish him the best and to pull through soon. It’s just awful!
Original Post: As districts around the country issue orders postponing trials and as we await Chief Judge Moore’s order continuing all trials until after 4/27, there is one trial in Broward federal court that is pushing forward.
It’s one of the sober home (health care fraud) cases, U.S. v. Sebastian Ahmed. The government is alleging $21 million in fraud.
Judge Cohn is presiding.
Chris Clark and Lisa Miller for the government.
Joel Hirschhorn for the defense.
The defendant is in custody.
The trial started back on February 20 and was only supposed to last 3 weeks. On Monday, they will start week 6 of the trial! The defendant testified for a few days last week. And the parties closed on Friday.
I understand that the defense has moved a number of times for mistrial based on the virus, but those motions have been denied. I’ve been told that Judge Cohn asked the jurors if they wanted to continue and they said yes.
“It’s one thing to have sloppy billing practices," Joel Hirschhorn, Ahmed’s defense attorney, said during opening statements. "It’s another for it to be fraud.”The Herald covered the sentencing of the brother and other co-defendants:
The filings also allege that [the defendant’s brother, who pleaded guilty] Ali Ahmed fathered a child with a woman he met while she was seeking recovery at the treatment center and that he provided her with heroin and alcohol while she was pregnant.
“Did they turn a blind eye to unwanted and random sex?” Hirschhorn asked during opening statements.
“Yes,” the lawyer answered, before going on to argue that his client was more focused on the business and that Sebastian Ahmed "did not understand the human side” of the operation.
On Tuesday, Ali Ahmed, 38, the former operations director and co-owner of Medi MD in Davie, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay $4.2 million in restitution to the bilked private health insurers.
Prosecutors urged the judge to give Ahmed almost the maximum sentence of 20 years, saying he impregnated a woman with a heroin addiction who was living in a “Serenity” sober home and plied her with the drug. When their child was born, he tested positive for heroin and other drugs.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Clark scoffed at the idea that Ahmed sought as little as five years in prison while citing his devotion to his son as a basis for leniency, highlighting that he was “providing heroin to his girlfriend who was bearing his son.”
In the end, U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno recognized the “vulnerability” of the addicts who were lured to the brothers’ chain of sober homes and substance abuse facilities in Broward. But Moreno also said Ahmed pleaded guilty and accepted responsibility, qualifying him for a potential guideline sentence between 9 and 11 years. So, Moreno split the difference.
Ahmed, standing alongside his attorney, Bradley Horenstein, said: “I am very sorry for the damage I have done to my family. My son will grow up without a father because of me.”