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Baton Rouge Legal Blog

SEC receives multiple tips about Tesla

If employees in Louisiana or anywhere else have information about illegal activity within their companies, they are allowed to report it. As long as a claim is made in good faith, an employee is generally protected from retaliation from their employer. A former Tesla employee told the Securities and Exchange Commission in January 2019 that the company had hacked employee cellphones and that other materials had been stolen. This tip is said to corroborate another tip the SEC received in August.

According to a representative of the company, the employee who sent the most recent tip did not raise concerns to Tesla during an internal investigation. The statement also mentioned that the employee was let go from the company because of poor performance and a lack of understanding as it related to security best practices. It concluded that the man was only looking to get attention from the media.

Trump campaign chair Manafort sentenced for fraud

Louisiana residents who have been following the Justice Department's investigation into alleged collusion between the Donald Trump campaign and the Russian government will likely know that the only person brought to trial so far by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is the president's former campaign chief Paul Manafort. Federal guidelines recommended a custodial sentence of between 19 and 24 years for the eight counts Manafort was found guilty of, but a federal judge in Virginia chose to send Manafort to prison for 47 months instead. He also imposed a $50,000 fine and ordered Manafort to make restitution in the amount of $24.8 million.

Before handing down the sentence on March 7, the judge pointed out that none of the crimes Manafort had been found guilty of were connected to election interference or collusion with Russian officials. A jury returned guilty verdicts on five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failing to disclose a foreign bank account.

Pedestrian deaths for 2018 may be highest since 1990

A new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association estimates that 6,227 pedestrians were killed in the U.S. in 2018, which is an increase of 250 people from 2017 and the highest that the number has been since 1990. Louisiana residents should know that from 2009 to 2018, the number of pedestrian deaths has jumped 51.5 percent and now accounts for 16 percent of all road fatalities.

Ninety percent of the total increase is due to more nighttime crashes, leading the GHSA to request safer road crossings and better education on the dangers of distracted driving, drowsy driving and speeding. Half the fatal pedestrian accidents in 2017 involved alcohol, so the GHSA is calling for greater awareness of this as well.

Pain cream fraud cost the government over $400 million

A conspiracy that involved submitting fraudulent claims for pain and scar creams is now tied to Louisiana. According to the Lafayette Daily Advertiser, the owner of a medical administration company in Monroe, Joseph Wiley, has admitted to creating fraudulent records to help pharmacies defraud the government.

He is the latest medical professional to be convicted in this wide-reaching scam, which has cost the federal government more than $400 million. The investigation is centered in Mississippi, where Wiley and other healthcare professionals participated in the fraud.

How to prevent contract disputes

Unfortunately, contract disputes are relatively common for businesses in Louisiana and throughout the nation. Although there's no way to absolutely safeguard against litigation risk, taking a few basic precautions can significantly reduce any organization's legal exposure. For starters, it's useful to notarize all signatures on commercial contracts. Notarization can remove any hint of doubt that an important signature is authentic. As incredible as it might seem, it's not unusual for people to sign contracts and later claim their signatures were forged. Even if it means risking perjury charges, signatories may be willing to lie for perceived financial gain.

With the help of an attorney, it is possible to push back on false claims of forged signatures. Nevertheless, dealing with a claim like this can waste time and resources. Notarized signatures almost always hold up in court. That's because most notaries are legally required to remain bonded and insured. This means that if a notary's mistake leads a company to lose a contract-related lawsuit, the notary's insurance company must pay all the damages.

Doctor and employee have pleaded guilty to Medicare fraud

The US Attorneys Office in Baton Rouge, Louisiana scored a major victory against a Baton Rouge doctor for submitting false Medicare claims. The doctor entered a guilty plea of conspiracy to commit health care fraud involving several millions of dollars. The doctor has not yet been sentenced but will most likely face jail time. The case was prosecuted in federal court rather than state court, presumably because Medicare claims were involved.

According to law enforcement officials, the doctor operated a spinal and pain management clinic. For nearly 10 years, the clinic had submitted bills for patient procedures when the patient was not in the clinic. In other cases, employees were instructed to falsify medical records so it would appear the procedures were consistent with billings. The claims total over four million dollars over the 10 year period. The criminal practices seem to be submitted to Medicare in the majority of cases, but private health insurance companies were also victimized.

When insurance fraud can be considered a crime.

Insurance contracts are basically private contracts between the insurer or the insurance company and the insured. People in Baton Rouge, Louisiana who are contemplating a scam on an insurance company should be aware that this may be a criminal offense. It is generally considered a white collar crime, but this has no effect on penalties involved.

Insurance fraud is normally set forth in the penal code of a jurisdiction. It may be in a more general fraud statute or it may be a specific crime related to insurance contracts. In most penal codes, the crime consists of an intentional misrepresentation of a material fact. All elements must be present for a conviction.

Speeding behind nearly one third of traffic deaths

The Governors Highway Safety Association has a report out showing that excessive speed is behind nearly one in three automobile-related fatalities. It expresses concern over the persistence of speeding as a factor in crashes, pointing out that it is considered "culturally acceptable" among many drivers in Louisiana and across the U.S. In other words, speeding does not come with a stigma like DUI or driving without a seatbelt does.

The GHSA, a non-profit representing various state highway safety offices, believes that additional resources must be brought together to address the challenge of speeding. This means, among other things, improved education that aims to create a more safety-minded culture. It also recommends stricter law enforcement, including automated speed enforcement.

Louisiana man pleads guilty to wire fraud

A 39-year-old Louisiana man faces decades behind bars after pleading guilty to three counts of wire fraud on Jan. 7. Each count carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a fine of up to $250,000. The Bossier City resident is scheduled to be sentenced on May 2. Prosecutors say that he stole more than $180,000 from Walmart, Target and Sam's Club stores. The matter was being heard by a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana.

Court documents reveal that the man obtained expensive electronic equipment and other consumer goods by using barcodes from much cheaper items. Reports indicate that he then made money by selling online the items he had fraudulently obtained. Inspectors from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service led the investigation into the man's activities.

High-profile Louisiana official charged with fraud

The Louisiana State Police has arrested a member of the state tax commission on charges related to financial misconduct. Following an investigation by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor and the LSP Criminal Investigation Division, the 51-year-old man was taken in on Jan. 11 on suspicion of fraud and malfeasance.

The investigation into alleged fraud began in May 2018 after State Police were informed of possible payroll fraud by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor. According to investigators, the 51-year-old man claimed and was paid for work time that was not actually completed for the Louisiana Tax Commission. In addition, he was allegedly seen using state rental vehicles on multiple occasions for personal use. The man also submitted fuel reimbursement requests for the vehicle use.