Tuesday, September 21, 2021

From Afghanstan To Texas: My Washington Times On Crime Column On 'Down Range,' A Compelling Crime Thriller

The Washington Times published my On Crime column on Taylor Moore’s crime thriller, Down Range. 

Garrett Kohl is a DEA special agent serving in Afghanistan when he is ordered by the CIA to return to the U.S. with the survivor and potential witness of a deadly attack on an Afghan village.  

Mr. Kohl brings the survivor, a traumatized young boy, to his former home in the High Plains of northwest Texas. He discovers that his hometown is besieged by drug smugglers that threaten his brother and father.  

Undercover, Mr. Kohl and the child stay at his father’s ranch as he investigates the violent criminals. The bad guys have no idea that they are up against a former combat Green Beret and a DEA special agent who has hunted terrorists and criminals. 

Monday, September 20, 2021

35 Minutes Of the The Late Norm McDonald On O.J. Simpson On Saturday Night Live

I just watched a 35 minute clip of the late Norm Macdonald, who recently died of cancer,  mocking O.J. Simpson and accusing him of murder on Saturday Night Live.  

When Simpson was found not guilty, Norm Macdonald said on the air, "Well, it is now official. Murder is legal in the state of California."

The Weekend Update bits got Macdonald fired, as an NBC executive was Simpson's friend.  

Funny stuff from a funny guy. He will be missed

You can watch the clip via the below link:

35 Minutes of Why Norm Macdonald Got Fired on Weekend Update - YouTube 

 

Two Famous Quotes About Joe Biden

No matter how things work out for the rest of President Biden's term in office, he will, I believe, always be defined and remembered by two famous quotes. 

President Obama reportedly said of his vice president, "Don't underestimate Joe's ability to fuck things up." (As noted in Bruce Tinsley's Mallard Filmore cartoon above).

And former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said of Biden in his memoir, "I think he's been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades." 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

National Health Care Fraud Enforcement Action Results In Charges Involving More Than $1.4 Billion In Alleged Losses

The Department of Justice released the below information: 

The Department of justice announced criminal charges against 138 defendants, including 42 doctors, nurses, and other licensed medical professionals, in 31 federal districts across the United States for their alleged participation in various health care fraud schemes that resulted in approximately $1.4 billion in alleged losses. 

The charges target approximately $1.1 billion in fraud committed using telemedicine (the use of telecommunications technology to provide health care services remotely), $29 million in COVID-19 health care fraud, $133 million connected to substance abuse treatment facilities, or “sober homes,” and $160 million connected to other health care fraud and illegal opioid distribution schemes across the country. 

“This nationwide enforcement action demonstrates that the Criminal Division is at the forefront of the fight against health care fraud and opioid abuse by prosecuting those who have exploited health care benefit programs and their patients for personal gain,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The charges announced today send a clear deterrent message and should leave no doubt about the department’s ongoing commitment to ensuring the safety of patients and the integrity of health care benefit programs, even amid a continued pandemic.” 

Today’s enforcement actions were led and coordinated by the Health Care Fraud Unit of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, in conjunction with its Health Care Fraud and Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force program and its core partners, the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), FBI, and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), as part of the department’s ongoing efforts to combat the devastating effects of health care fraud and the opioid epidemic. 

The cases are being prosecuted by Health Care Fraud and ARPO Strike Force teams from the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, in coordination with 31 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices nationwide, and agents from HHS-OIG, FBI, DEA, and other federal and state law enforcement agencies.

“Health care fraud targets the vulnerable in our communities, our health care system, and our basic expectation of competent, available care,” said Assistant Director Calvin Shivers of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “Despite a continued pandemic, the FBI and our law enforcement partners remain dedicated to safeguarding American taxpayers and businesses from the steep cost of health care fraud.” 

“We have seen all too often criminals who engage in health care fraud — stealing from taxpayers while jeopardizing the health of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries,” said Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Gary L. Cantrell of HHS-OIG. “Today’s announcement should serve as another warning to individuals who may be considering engaging in such illicit activity: our agency and its law enforcement partners remain unrelenting in our commitment to rooting out fraud, holding bad actors accountable, and protecting the millions of beneficiaries who rely on federal health care programs.” 

“Holding to account those responsible for health care fraud and diversion of prescription drugs is a priority for DEA,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. “These fraudulent activities prey on our most vulnerable – those in pain, the substance-addicted, and even the homeless – those who are most susceptible to promises of relief, recovery, or a new start. Not only do these schemes profit from desperation, but they often leave their victims even deeper in addiction. We are grateful to our partners who stand with us to keep our communities safer and healthier through our collective efforts to prevent the misuse and over-prescribing of controlled medications.” 

“Every dollar saved is critical to the sustainability of our Medicare programs and meeting the needs of seniors and people with disabilities,” said Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “CMS has taken actions against 28 providers on behalf of people with Medicare coverage and to protect the Medicare Trust Fund. Actions like this to combat fraud, waste and abuse in our federal programs would not be possible without the successful partnership of Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General.”  

Telemedicine Fraud Cases 

The largest amount of alleged fraud loss charged in connection with the cases announced today – over $1.1 billion in allegedly false and fraudulent claims submitted by more than 43 criminal defendants in 11 judicial districts – relates to schemes involving telemedicine. According to court documents, certain defendant telemedicine executives allegedly paid doctors and nurse practitioners to order unnecessary durable medical equipment, genetic and other diagnostic testing, and pain medications, either without any patient interaction or with only a brief telephonic conversation with patients they had never met or seen. Durable medical equipment companies, genetic testing laboratories, and pharmacies then purchased those orders in exchange for illegal kickbacks and bribes and submitted over $1.1 billion in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and other government insurers. In some instances, medical professionals billed Medicare for sham telehealth consultations that did not occur as represented. The proceeds of the scheme were spent on luxury items, including vehicles, yachts, and real estate.  

The continued focus on prosecuting health care fraud schemes involving telemedicine reflects the success of the nationwide coordinating role of the Fraud Section’s National Rapid Response Strike Force, the creation of which was announced at the 2020 National Health Care Fraud and Opioid Takedown. The National Rapid Response Strike Force helped coordinate the prosecution of the telemedicine initiative, Sober Homes initiative, and COVID-19 cases that were announced today. The focus on telemedicine fraud also builds on the telemedicine component of last year’s national takedown and the impact of the 2019 “Operation Brace Yourself” Telemedicine and Durable Medical Equipment Takedown, which resulted in an estimated cost avoidance of more than $1.9 billion in the amount paid by Medicare for orthotic braces in the 20 months following that takedown. 

COVID-19 Fraud Cases 

Nine defendants in the cases announced today are alleged to have engaged in various health care fraud schemes designed to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in the submission of over $29 million in false billings. In one type of scheme, defendants are alleged to have exploited policies that were put in place by the CMS to enable increased access to care during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as expanded telehealth regulations and rules. Defendants allegedly misused patient information to submit claims to Medicare for unrelated, medically unnecessary, and expensive laboratory tests, including cancer genetic testing. 

The law enforcement action today also includes criminal charges against five defendants who allegedly engaged in the misuse of Provider Relief Fund monies. The Provider Relief Fund is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a federal law enacted March 2020 designed to provide needed medical care to Americans suffering from COVID-19. The defendants allegedly used the moneys for their own personal expenses, including for gambling at a Las Vegas casino and paying a luxury car dealership.  

The COVID-19 cases announced today build upon the success of the COVID-19 Health Care Fraud Takedown on May 26, a coordinated law enforcement action against 14 defendants in seven judicial districts for over $128 million in false billings. The law enforcement action and the cases announced today were brought in coordination with the Health Care Fraud Unit’s COVID-19 Interagency Working Group, which is chaired by the National Rapid Response Strike Force and organizes efforts to address illegal activity involving health care programs during the pandemic. 

Sober Homes Cases 

The sober homes cases are announced on the one-year anniversary of the first ever national sober homes initiative in 2020, which included charges against more than a dozen criminal defendants in connection with more than $845 million of allegedly false and fraudulent claims for tests and treatments for vulnerable patients seeking treatment for drug and/or alcohol addiction. 

The over $133 million in false and fraudulent claims that are additionally alleged in cases announced today reflect the continued effort by the National Rapid Response Strike Force and the Health Care Fraud Unit’s Los Angeles Strike Force, with the participation of the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Central District of California and the Southern District of Florida, to prosecute those who participated in illegal kickback and bribery schemes involving the referral of patients to substance abuse treatment facilities; those patients could be subjected to medically unnecessary drug testing – often billing thousands of dollars for a single test – and therapy sessions that frequently were not provided, and which resulted in millions of dollars of false and fraudulent claims being submitted to private insurers. 

Cases Involving the Illegal Prescription and/or Distribution of Opioids and Cases Involving Traditional Health Care Fraud Schemes 

The cases announced today involving the illegal prescription and/or distribution of opioids involve 19 defendants, including several charges against medical professionals and others who prescribed over 12 million doses of opioids and other prescription narcotics, while submitting over $14 million in false billings. The cases that fall into more traditional categories of health care fraud include charges against over 60 defendants who allegedly participated in schemes to submit more than $145 million in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, and private insurance companies for treatments that were medically unnecessary and often never provided.

Prior to the charges announced as part of today’s nationwide enforcement action and since its inception in March 2007, the Health Care Fraud Strike Force, which maintains 15 strike forces operating in 24 districts, has charged more than 4,600 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for approximately $23 billion. In addition to the criminal actions announced today, CMS, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, announced 28 administrative actions to decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

Never Underestimate An Old Man Who Served On The USS Kitty Hawk

As an old man who served on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk when I was a young man during the Vietnam War, I got a kick out of seeing a t-shirt that read "Never Underestimate An Old Man Who Served On USS Kitty Hawk."

You can purchase the t-shirt and other items via the below link:

 USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) - militaryxstore.com


You can read about the old carrier via the below link:

Saturday, September 18, 2021

My Crime Fiction: Bozo's Last Stand: A Story Of Stolen Valor

 The below short story first appeared in American Crime Magazine.

 Bozo’s Last Stand: A Story of Stolen Valor 

By Paul Davis

After I completed my most recent crime column for the local paper, which was about a fraud who posed as a former Navy SEAL in order to received unearned Veteran’s Administration benefits, I thought back to other frauds I knew who lied about being in the military and serving in combat. 

I thought of Tony Russo, an odd guy that I knew from a local taproom in South Philadelphia. One of the other guys told us, half-jokingly, that Russo's mother had dropped him on his head when he was a baby. 

“That explains things,” another bar patron said. 

I didn’t think Russo was a bad guy, just a bit weird and socially awkward. That is until he began telling the guys in the bar, and probably everyone else, that he was a Vietnam veteran. 

I knew that Russo, who was a few years older than me, had certainly not served in the Vietnam War. I knew, because like most veterans, we had discussed what we had done in the service more than once in the bar. 

I told Russo that I had served as a sailor on the USS Kitty Hawk as the aircraft carrier performed combat operations on "Yankee Station" in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of North Vietnam in 1970 and 1971. Russo told me that he was an MP (military police) in West Germany during the early 1960s, before the big build-up in South Vietnam. 

Being an MP in West Germany was honorable service and something to be proud of, but in his twisted mind, I suppose it was not enough. 

Previously, I had interviewed him for my newspaper column when he joined the Vietnam Veterans of America. I quoted him as stating that although he was not a Vietnam veteran, he respected those who did serve there. 

Then, only a few years later, he got it into his head that he had served in the Vietnam War, just as the veterans he hung around did. He claimed to have won a Purple Heart and other medals in the war. Some gullible guys who first met him bought him drinks and sandwiches, which he accepted. This, I knew, was a crime, although the cost of a beer and a sandwich perhaps made it a minor crime.   

As I noted in my newspaper column, under the Stolen Valor Act of 2013, it is a crime to obtain money, property, or other tangible benefits while fraudulently claiming to have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, the Air Force Cross, a Silver Star, a Purple Heart, and other combat medals. 

Russo began wearing a baseball cap with “Vietnam Veteran” embroidered on it, and he also wore a jacket and a sweatshirt embroidered with “Vietnam Veteran.” I can only assume that his underwear was embroidered with “Vietnam Veteran” as well. 

I thought that his lying about serving in Vietnam was a despicable act, and an insult to those who actually served in the war. It was Stolen Valor. But I didn’t bother to expose him at the bar, or call the FBI, because I believed he had mental issues. And most of the guys at the bar didn't believe him in any case. 

I recall one time when he was telling his phony war stories in his usual stammer with awkward pauses, when he stated, “I spent eight months in, hey ya, Hell.” 

“Don’t all guys spend a full year in-country tour?” One of the bar’s patrons asked. 

Russo had a strained look on his face, and then said, “I left because I had high blood pressure.” 

“Didn’t everyone in Vietnam have high blood pressure?” I asked.

 

My thoughts then drifted to another time back in the late 1970s when I was a young man.  

I had gone to a jewelry store to pick up a watch that needed to be repaired. At the entrance to the jewelry store were two unarmed black security guards. They both wore black paramilitary uniforms. One of the guards was a big guy and his black uniform shirt was stretched as his upper torso bulged with muscle. He also wore a black baseball cap that read “Navy SEAL Vietnam Veteran” embroidered above the bill. 

The second guard, a smaller, thinner, and older black man, wore a simple black baseball cap and his black uniform hung loose on his lean frame. 

The bigger of the guards stood in front of me and looked me over. He was twice the size of me, but having been an amateur middleweight boxer, I was not intimidated. 

I stared up at the big man and looked him in the eye. 

The thinner guard nudged his bigger partner aside and said, “C’mon in, man.” 

“Thanks,” I replied and walked over to the counter. 

A pretty young black girl was behind the counter. I smiled, said hello, and handed her my slip. She smiled back and walked towards the back room, once looking over her shoulder and smiling again at me. 

“What you looking at, pretty boy?” 

I turned and saw space mountain standing next to me. My flirtatious good humor vanished, and I responded like a good son of South Philly. 

“Fuck you.” 

“That girl there is my girl. And you don’t want to fuck with me, boy, I’m a Vietnam veteran. 

So am I,” I said. “Sort of.” 

“I was a fucking Navy SEAL in the shit. What was you?” 

“I was on an aircraft carrier.” 

“Pussy,” he said curtly. “This here jewelry store hired me because I fought in Vietnam as a SEAL and won the Silver Star in combat.” 

My bullshit antenna raised. I didn’t believe him. 

“Go back to the circus, Bozo.” 

“Are you calling me a clown? I’ll rip your head off!” 

“Or die trying,’ I said, my right fist balled and ready. 

Bozo ripped his shirt open, struggled to get it off, and then tossed it with a fury to the floor. 

“Do I look like I’m afraid of you?” I asked calmly. “Do you see me running?”   

“Come outside, Motherfucker, and I’ll fuck you up.” 

He yanked the store’s door open and stepped out, and I followed. 

Bozo stood on the sidewalk, flexing his muscles. 

I wasn’t impressed, as I knew that steroid-induced muscles made one strong, but not fast. 

The second security guard came out and stood between us. 

“Man, there ain’t no need for violence.” 

“Get out the way, Harry, I’m going to fuck this pretty boy up.” 

With that he came at with a slow, clumsy roundhouse. 

One did not need to be a former boxer to slip that telegraphed punch. I leaned my head back and turned it slightly to the right and felt the air of the missed punch sail by.  

I countered quickly with a hard right cross and Bozo dropped to the cement. He lay there holding his head and moaning and rolling from side to side. 

The pretty counter girl came out of the store and stood over Bozo. 

“Please don’t hit him again!” She pleaded. “He wasn’t a Navy SEAL. He wasn’t even in the service.” 

I nodded.

She handed me my repaired watch in a bag, and I handed her a $20 dollar bill, which gave her a $5 dollar tip. I turned and walked away. 

Harry rushed up to me. 

“Thank you, man.” He said. “I’ve been listening to his shit for almost a year. He’s always putting me down as I was a Marine in Nam, even though I was shot and almost died. He always saying SEALs is tougher than Marines.” 

“Well,” I said to Harry. “Thank you for your service.” 

“You too,” he said as I walked away. 

© Copyright Paul Davis 2021

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Stolen Valor: My Philadelphia Weekly Crime Beat Column On A Fake Navy SEAL Who Stole From The VA

Philadelphia Weekly published My Crime Beat column on a fake Navy SEAL who stole from the Veteran's Administration.

You can read the column online via the below link or the below pages:

 Stolen valor - Philadelphia Weekly   


You can click on the above and below to enlarge.