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Supreme Court to Consider the Question of Asset Seizure Before Conviction


There have been so many high profile white collar criminal cases this last year that involve some type of health care fraud. In fact, there are too many to write about, but this case was of particular interest to me. I still believe that citizens have a right to pick their own lawyer to defend themselves.

I presume that after Obamacare and employees being enticed to be whistleblowers, which has induced some to help bring these cases to light. The money figures related to the charges are staggering. In a recent case out of Miami, Florida, a woman has been charged with defrauding Medicare of $45 million.

Ms. Luis, the president of two health care companies, was charged with Medicare fraud of $45 million over a six year period. On the day she was indicted, the government filed a civil complaint to freeze all of her assets. Luis’ counsel argued that $15 million of the funds in question came from sources other than Medicare billing. The Court agreed with the government and entered an order to freeze her assets. Thereby leaving Luis without the ability to retain counsel to defend herself in court.

Luis appealed the order to freeze her assets to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. The three panel of judges hearing the issue ruled in favor of the trial court and affirmed the asset forfeiture. Luis appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the issue, but has not ruled as of yet. We may get a ruling by the end of this term.

In a similar case Kaley v. U.S, in 2014, while the facts may not be the same, the issue was similar. Justice Kagan, who wrote the opinion on behalf of the Court, stated that a criminal defendant indicted by a grand jury was not entitled to challenge the forfeiture of assets, even if the funds were needed to defend themselves. The government alleged that all of Kaley’s assets derived from the fraud and criminal conduct. This line of law and reasoning raises some serious questions.

What about the Sixth Amendment, right to counsel? What happened to the Fifth Amendment, of being innocent until proven guilty in a court of law by a jury of your peers? I am not discussing the facts of the trial, just the opportunity to level the playing field and defend yourself against the greatest opponent in the history of mankind. The U.S. government. I have stated during many trials over and over again, the government has four things that the rest of society does not have, money, power, time and resources. These four things are all you need in life to achieve an outcome.

While every case is unique, I am not quite sure there are enough differentiating facts to overcome the case of Kaley v. U.S. Once the Court rules, I will update this case as I will be watching to see if the Court is consistent, or finds a way around to allow the defendant some money to defend herself.

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