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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Fraud After Targeting FBI with Bogus Lawsuit

Lawyer pleads guilty to fraud after targeting FBI with bogus lawsuit
The New York Post by Todd Venezia and Josh Saul  -  April 25, 2012
This guy must be a partner in the firm of Dumb & Dumber.

A knuckleheaded New York lawyer pleaded guilty today to healthcare fraud, after he brazenly tried to target the FBI in a bogus injury lawsuit, officials said. Lawyer Jeffrey Squitieri, 45, apparently noticed nothing suspicious when a new client came to him saying he’d been involved in a wreck with a car that had been rented by the bureau. That “client” turned out to be an undercover officer conducting a fraud investigation into Squitieri’s sleazy accident claim operation. The Manhattan attorney allegedly flunked gangster 101 by failing to realize his client might have really been law enforcement, after his own check of the car’s rental record showed it was “hired” by the FBI. Despite this massive hint — which might have sent the average con-artist running for the hills — Squitieri would not be deterred from his greedy scheme, according to the Manhattan US Attorney’s office. The plot included ordering the undercover to get pricy and unnecessary medical treatment, such as MRIs. He then filed a $1 million claim against the FBI on behalf of the undercover. He was so brazen, that he even called the agency multiple times in June and July to inquire about the status of the case. “Some people have chutzpah – but with this guy it’s compounded by stupidity,” said Frank Scafidi, spokesman for the National Insurance Crime Bureau.  “The world of criminal behavior – you think you’ve seen it all,” he added. “Then you see something even more heinous – or in this case, laughable.” The probe began in January 2011, when the undercover was introduced to the shady lawyer by an employee of a medical clinic, which was allegedly in cahoots with him.  Squitieri, of Englewood Cliffs, NJ, allegedly told the officer that he had to make as many visits to the clinic as he could in 90 days and get MRIs on his back and neck.  He allegedly said that if the agent played ball with the scam he would get rich.  “If you do what I tell you to do I’ll make you money,” he said in a recorded telephone call, according to a criminal complaint. “Go ahead and you play and . . . I’m gonna get you set up for a procedure and make you money.” Squitieri allegedly tried to get the undercover to get chiropractic procedures such as manipulation under anesthesia, which the feds said can “drastically increase the size of the insurance claim and/or lawsuit.” Squitieri, who was disbarred on unrelated issues, filed suit against the FBI in 2011. He faces up to three years behind bars when he is sentenced. Despite his failure to sense the law officers were on to him, Squitieri was actually paranoid about police, said a doorman at the building that housed his law offices.  “He was the biggest trouble maker of the 2000 residents here,” said Armind Jata. He was always afraid, he called down all the time because he thought police were looking for him.”

RELATED STORY:

Disbarred Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Health Provider
The New York Law Journal by Mark Hamblett  -  April 26, 2012

A now-disbarred attorney who was caught coaching an alleged auto accident victim to commit health insurance fraud pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court in Manhattan.  Jeffrey Squitieri, 45, didn't know he was talking to an undercover agent posing as an accident victim when he urged the agent to make multiple doctor visits and undertake unnecessary medical procedures at a Bronx clinic in 2011.  Yesterday, Squitieri entered a guilty plea to a single count of conspiracy to defraud a health care benefit provider. He had little choice, as investigators caught him on tape in 2011 aggressively urging his "client" to boost the value of his insurance claims by having multiple MRIs and other procedures at the clinic.  "I knew at the time what I was doing and that it was wrong and illegal," Squitieri told Southern District Magistrate Judge James Cott.  Squitieri, of Englewood Cliffs, N.J., was introduced to the undercover agent by an employee of a health care clinic in January 2011. The lawyer told the undercover to make as many visits to the clinic as possible, as many as three or four times a week. Squitieri said that as the lawyer he would get one-third of whatever reimbursements the undercover received.  In March 2011, Squitieri was recorded on the phone with the agent saying, "You have to do your end of the [expletive] job here"; "help me help you"; and "just get the MRIs done." But Squitieri did not know that he was dealing with an invented accident and police report fabricated by investigators. According to the government, after he learned from the invented report that the "accident" involved a rented car, he called the rental agency and was told the vehicle had been rented to the FBI.  Squitieri proceeded to file a $1 million claim against the agency, which is self-insured. He followed up over the next few months by calling the FBI Legal Unit to ask about the status of his claim.

Under a plea agreement with the Southern District U.S. Attorney's Office, Squitieri, faces a stipulated sentencing guidelines range of 2 1/2 to three years and one month when he is sentenced by Judge William Pauley on Aug. 24.  Squitieri is a recovering alcoholic who was disbarred in New York by the Appellate Division, First Department, in September (NYLJ, Sept. 9, 2011).  Before the First Department, he admitted to bookkeeping violations, neglect of a client matter and converting funds from an escrow account. He offered as a defense that his judgment was marred by alcoholism and psychiatric disorders triggered by a divorce and claimed he lacked the "venal intent" to support the charges.  But the First Department said Squitieri, who had practiced in New York since 1997 and had an office on the Upper East Side, failed to show "a sufficient causal connection between his mental condition and his conversion of client funds to support a finding that he lacked venal intent."  The panel in Matter of Squitieri, M6050, said some of the acts Squitieri committed during his period of alcoholism and impaired mental health, like "a check kiting scheme," were "inconsistent" with the opinions of mental health experts that Squitieri could not make intelligent decisions.  Squitieri has even more trouble in New Jersey, where he has been suspended from practice since Feb. 18, 2011.  An ethics complaint filed on May 11, 2011, accused him of misappropriation of client settlement monies and hindering an investigation by the Office of Attorney Ethics by providing altered copies of bank records.  Squitieri allegedly settled without authority a personal injury case for $100,000 on behalf of Guillermo Henao, who suffered a severe head injury and multiple fractures when he was hit by a car in front of his apartment building in 2009.

Last month, Superior Court Judge Charles Powers in Bergen County entered a $2,578,200 default judgment against Squitieri in Henao v. Squitieri, BER-L-11400-10. In the suit, the Henao family alleged their 24-year-old son, Victor, without authority, signed a retainer agreement on behalf of his then-comatose father.  Then, sometime in December 2009, with Guillermo Henao out of his coma but still incapacitated, Squitieri allegedly persuaded Victor to sign a release settling the case for the driver's $100,000 policy limit. Squitieri is accused of keeping $88,000 of the proceeds.  The family also charged the lawyer failed to pursue $250,000 in "personal injury protection" benefits, leaving the family unable to pay for Henao's care and forced the premature end to his in-patient rehabilitation. The lack of money also exposed Henao to a collection suit and possible eviction from his apartment.  The $2.6 million in damages is made up of $328,200 in economic damages, $750,000 for pain and suffering and $1.5 million in punitive damages. Squitieri filed a motion on April 11 to vacate the New Jersey judgment.  In the Southern District, Squitieri was represented by James Roth of Hurwitz Stampur & Roth. Both men declined to comment as they left the courtroom yesterday.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Harris Fischman represented the government in United States v. Squitieri, 12 cr 00102.  Southern District U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement that investigation of Squitieri was conducted by the joint health care fraud task force involving the FBI, New York Police Department and the New York regional office of the National Insurance Crime Bureau.  "Jeffrey Squitieri had a novel and corrupt concept of what it meant to zealously represent his legal clients," Bharara said. "He used them to perpetrate a fraud on the health care industry by encouraging, and even badgering them into scheduling multiple, unnecessary doctor visits and medical procedures at a clinic with which he was colluding."  Mark Hamblett can be contacted at mhamblett@alm.com. Mary Pat Gallagher of the New Jersey Law Journal contributed to this report.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

This guy is like a lot of other lawyers.
Good and decent lawyers, who wrongly hide in the shadows of the corruption, need to start speaking up.

Anonymous said...

He was just so greedy that he couldn't act cleverly. This New York lawyer was caught, while hundreds of other lawyers just like him are protected by a corrupt court system and judges.

Anonymous said...

Good and decent lawyers were are they?
People think it is like in the movies it is not that way
This Jeff guy is disbarred in 2 states now and even if he goes to jail when he gets out he can re-aply and get his law license back.
Even if it is a felony conviction as long as he pays about 3,000 a year he can do what ever he wants
Who many other people he got away with ripping off
they did not go throw his files and speak to his last clients they do not want to know what happened

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Anonymous said...

What he did to his wife and children is far worse than anything related to him being an attorney.

Lock him up keep him locked up and hopefully "the boys" have at it with his a--.

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Kristin Northcutt said...

Good and decent lawyers were are they? People think it is like in the movies it is not that way This Jeff guy is disbarred in 2 states now and even if he goes to jail when he gets out he can re-aply and get his law license back. Even if it is a felony conviction as long as he pays about 3,000 a year he can do what ever he wants Who many other people he got away with ripping off they did not go throw his files and speak to his last clients they do not want to know what happened

Tom McCollum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Josh Green Rock said...

Many other people he got away with ripping off they did not go throw his files and speak to his last clients they do not want to know what happened.
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