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Jury Awards are Supposed to Be Rarely Overturned on Appeal. Not so in Tobacco Cases.

Juries are awarding former smokers or their estates millions of dollars in damages against Tobacco giant R J Reynolds. Judges are reversing.

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It's All Smoke n' Judges Agree

R J Reynolds Tobacco Successfully Reversing Jury Awards

Tobacco Cos. Say Improper Remarks Led To $10M Verdict

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris USA Inc. urged a Florida appeals court Tuesday, May 25, 2021 to reverse a $10 million judgment for the daughter of a smoker who died of lung cancer, arguing that her attorney made improper inflammatory remarks to the jury at the close of trial.

R.J. REYNOLDS TOBACCO COMPANY and PHILIP MORRIS USA, INC. vs. DEBORAH NEFF, as Personal Representative of the ESTATE OF DOROTHY MILINKOVICH

And another appeal will be in the works;

RJ Reynolds Owes Smoker $3M For Lung Disease, Jury Rules

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. was hit with a $2.97 million verdict Monday after a seven-day Florida state jury trial on claims that its cigarettes caused Roosevelt Gordon, a 79-year-old former smoker’s chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

LIF told Y’all. Tobacco Co.’s Never Lose.

This reversal was on Wednesday, 30 June, 2021.

Florida Appeals Court Throws Out $10.6M Tobacco Verdict

FEB 11, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAY 26, 2021

A jury awarded damages to the estate of Janice Hamilton, a smoker who died of lung cancer. But R.J. Reynolds argued in the appeal that a circuit judge improperly allowed a hearsay statement.
In a victory for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., a state appeals court Wednesday overturned a $10.6 million verdict against the cigarette-maker in a lawsuit involving a woman’s death from lung cancer.

A three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal ordered a new trial in the Broward County lawsuit.

A jury awarded $6 million in compensatory damages and $4.6 million in punitive damages to the estate of Janice Hamilton, a smoker who died of lung cancer. But R.J. Reynolds argued in the appeal that a circuit judge improperly allowed a hearsay statement that centered on a conversation between Hamilton and her son when he was a teen.

The appeals court ruling said that during the conversation, Hamilton allegedly told her son that “if he was going to smoke, he should smoke filtered cigarettes because they were ‘safe’ based on information she got from advertisements.”

R.J. Reynolds argued that the part of the statement about where Hamilton got her information was hearsay and should not have been allowed in the trial.

The appeals court agreed, as the statement was used to prove what is known as a “fraudulent concealment” claim against the cigarette maker.

“In order for plaintiff (Hamilton’s son, as representative of the estate) to prevail on his conspiracy to commit fraud by concealment claim, he was required to prove that Mrs. Hamilton detrimentally relied on an act or statement made in furtherance of RJR’s agreement to conceal or omit material information concerning the health effects or addictive nature of cigarettes,”

said Wednesday’s seven-page ruling, written by Judge Dorian Damoorgian and joined by Judges Cory Ciklin and Mark Klingensmith.

“Mrs. Hamilton’s statement that filtered cigarettes were safe based on what she heard from advertising, in turn, was undoubtedly the strongest evidence of reliance in this case.”

Ex-Smoker Awarded $3M In Florida Tobacco Trial Against RJ Reynolds

MAY 25, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAY 26, 2021

Quincy, FL – A man suffering from chronic lung disease after decades of smoking was awarded roughly $3 million on Monday in Florida state court at one of the first recent in-person jury trials involving R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.

The Gadsen County jury returned their verdict shortly after hearing closing arguments, having just heard opening arguments on May 18 in a trial that moved quickly compared to other Florida tobacco trials, which can sometimes take weeks to complete.

The jury awarded plaintiff Roosevelt Gordon, who suffers from emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, $447,000 in past a future medical expenses and $2,522,880 for past and future pain and suffering.

Gordon blames his illness on the Winston brand cigarettes be began smoking as a teenager, while RJR argued Gordon chose to smoke despite knowing the risks to his health.

During his closing argument, Gordon’s attorney Allan Kaiser of Tein Malone Trial Lawyers offered jurors a range of potential damages to award, based on various hourly rates for Gordon’s suffering.

Kaiser described Gordon’s frequent trips to the hospital and deteriorating quality of life, along with the fact that his condition is likely to worsen as time progresses.

Kaiser argued Gordon never saw the messages RJR put out about the health risks associated with smoking, and that consumer expectations in decades past were very different than today.

Kaiser told CVN after the trial that he and his team are extremely pleased with the verdict.

“The fact that the jury found RJ Reynolds 100% at fault is testament to the fact that our client’s testimony was credible, believable and corroborated,” Kaiser said.

He explained that Gordon’s case went faster than most because it wasn’t a so-called “Engle progeny” case, meaning it didn’t stem from the decertification of a historic class action against the tobacco companies, which resulted in thousands of individual cases slowly making their way through Florida’s court system.

“This was a non-Engle case with only two claims – defective product and negligence and no punitive damages,”

Kaiser said.

“That, plus the fact that jury selection was completed in little over a day, resulted in a shorter trial than most Engle cases.”

RJR’s attorney, John Walker of Jones Day, quoted heavily from Gordon’s testimony during his closing, much as he did in his opening statement.

Walker showed jurors repeated quotes from Gordon that he said proved Gordon smoked because he chose to and never made a serious effort to quit.

Walker did not respond to a request for comment.

The resumption of tobacco trials in Florida is a clear sign of return to normalcy for the state’s court system, which like courts throughout the country suffers a serious backlog of civil trials delayed by the pandemic.

Another in-person trial began Monday in Palm Beach County.

These two trials come on the heels of an April trial in Miami, where a jury cleared Philip Morris of any liability for a longtime smoker’s stroke.

That case followed a February trial in Oregon state court, where a jury returned a defense verdict for RJR over responsibility for a smoker’s fatal lung cancer.

The Gadsen County case is captioned Roosevelt Gordon v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, case number 2019CA001074 in the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court of Florida.

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Thank you for your trust, belief and support in our conviction to help Floridian residents and citizens nationwide take back their freedom. Your Donations and your Voice are so important.



LIFl

Them Versus Us. “I Run The County” Sayeth Flagler County Commissioner Joe Mullins in Speedin’ Ferrari

Hey look, so 92 miles per hour is 22 over the speed limit, ok? the trooper explains.

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‘I run the county’ Florida commissioner tells trooper after being caught speeding in Ferrari, video shows

JUL 14, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUL 17, 2022

FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – Video from Florida Highway Patrol appears to show Flagler County Commission Chairman Joe Mullins being pulled over for speeding in a red Ferrari.

A trooper stopped him on Interstate 95 and the patrol dashcam video captured their exchange.

“Hey look, so 92 miles per hour is 22 over the speed limit, ok?” the trooper explains. “Normally, I give warnings, I give breaks, but it looks like you’ve been written a warning already. So I do issue the citation. With that being said it’s gonna be payable within 30 days.”

This happened back in June. As the trooper explains the citation, Mullins cuts him off to say he knows how the process works.

Mullins: “I run the county so I know how that works.”

Trooper: “You run the county?”

Mullins: “Yeah, I’m Chairman of the county commission.”

The trooper continues to explain the citation, saying he didn’t want any miscommunication. Mullins is then seen speeding away.

FOX 35 reached out to the commissioner for an explanation of what he meant by his statement. We have not yet received a reply.

YOUR DONATION(S) WILL HELP US:

• Continue to provide this website, content, resources, community and help center for free to the many homeowners, residents, Texans and as we’ve expanded, people nationwide who need access without a paywall or subscription.

• Help us promote our campaign through marketing, pr, advertising and reaching out to government, law firms and anyone that will listen and can assist.

Thank you for your trust, belief and support in our conviction to help Floridian residents and citizens nationwide take back their freedom. Your Donations and your Voice are so important.



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Florida

June’s List of Florida Lawyers Behavin’ Like, Well, Lawyers

The Florida Supreme Court disciplined 19 attorneys, disbarring three, suspending nine, reprimanding one, and revoking the licenses of six.

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June 2022 Florida Bar List of Disciplinary Actions Against Florida Lawyers

JUN 1, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JULY 9, 2022

BREAKING NEWS FROM LAWS IN FLORIDA .COM

The Florida Bar and Florida Supreme Court Has Decided it is Closing the Door on Transparency Due to LIF’s Detailed Investigations, based off the monthly Florida Lawyers behavin’ badly, e.g. the disciplinary list issued by the Florida Bar.

The Amount of Monies these Lawyers are Thievin’ is Now being Withheld from the Disciplinary Reports, where the Rogue Lawyer Admits Guilt and Agrees to the Bar Sanction(s). This is Brand New, before LIF Could Obtain the Amount of Money Finched via their Reporting.

That Stated, We’ll Just Harvest More Facts and Data about the Ochlocracy and Judicial Corruption along with these Rogue Florida Lawyers Behavin’ Badly and Post it On Our No BS Blogs. p.s., the Gov. Ron ‘The Unwanted Dictator” DeSantis is included.

It’s A Coverup. No Details of the Amount of Theft of Funds by the Fl. Bar or Supreme Court.

Charles H. Burns, 205 Golfview Dr., Tequesta, ($1.2M family residence) disciplinary revocation without leave to seek readmission effective 30 days following a May 19 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1980)

Burns was the subject of a Bar grievance that involved allegations of misappropriation.

(Case No: SC22-227)

Allan Campbell Should Have Been Disbarred. LIF Has Covered this Case in an Ongoing Series of Articles.

Allan Campbell, 1300 South Duncan Dr., Bldg. A, Tavares, suspended for three years and completion of The Florida Bar’s Ethics School effective 30 days following a May 19 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1990)

Campbell created a law firm with nonlawyers who were allowed to control Campbell’s law firm and the employees of the firm.

The nonlawyers engaged in the unlicensed practice of law with respect to both the timeshare exit cases and the mortgage foreclosure cases.

Campbell allowed others, including nonlawyers, to file pleadings using Campbell’s e-filing credentials without his approval.

Campbell made accusations under oath in federal court that he later admitted he did not know whether those accusations were true.

Additionally, the nonlawyer employees engaged in negotiations with timeshare resorts, under Campbell’s name as an attorney, located in jurisdictions in which Campbell was not admitted to the practice of law.

Campbell allowed the nonlawyers who ran his law firm to advertise and directly solicit potential clients in a manner that was not allowed by the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.

Finally, one of the nonlawyers who ran Campbell’s law office told Campbell not to come back that the nonlawyer was changing the locks, preventing Campbell from having access to his own law firm.

A new law firm was created with a similar name under a different attorney who continued servicing the cases under Campbell’s law firm without any notice to the clients from Campbell or the new attorney.

(Case No: SC21-1495)

Persistent Offender, Sandra Coracelin’s Devious Behavior Results in Disbarment

Sandra Coracelin, 16211 S.W. 18th St., Miramar ($684k family residence), disbarred effective immediately following a May 23 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1997)

Coracelin filed her petition for reinstatement from a three-year suspension.

After determining Coracelin acted in contempt of the two previous orders of suspension, the Bar filed a petition for contempt and order to show cause.

Coracelin committed several misrepresentations to the Bar during the reinstatement proceedings and to an employer during her suspension, including attempting to tamper with a witness and thwart The Florida Bar’s investigation into her conduct during her suspension.

Coracelin also omitted three legal employments, and other jobs, from her petition for reinstatement and failed to disclose the income derived from them.

(Case No: SC20-1473)

Maite Diaz Banked on Florida Bar Reinstatement

Maite L. Diaz, P.O. Box 820300, Pembroke Pines, public reprimand by publication effective immediately following a May 12 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2006)

This is a reciprocal discipline action that was issued by the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida on June 25, 2019.

It ultimately resulted in Diaz being suspended by the bankruptcy court due to what the court described as gross incompetence.

Diaz appealed the order in federal court and sought reinstatement prior to the conclusion of the appeal.

She was reinstated in 2020 after a finding that she was fully rehabilitated.

(Case No: SC21-1754)

Perverted Florida Lawyer John Gillespie is to be Welcomed Back to the Florida Bar after 3 Years despite being Incarcerated for running his Law Office Like an Underage Prostitution Ring

John Gillespie, 252 8th Ave., Cramerton, NC, suspended for three years, effective immediately following an April 28 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1998)

Gillespie engaged in misconduct, including a conflict of interest, by engaging in a sexual relationship with a criminal client that resulted in the birth of a child.

Gillespie also made misrepresentations to the Bar during its investigation of this matter.

(Case No: SC20-974)

No Jail Nor Criminal Charges for Microcap Fraud

Lawyer Diane Harrison Disbarred and her Non-lawyer Husband a Co-Conspirator

Diane Joy Harrison, 6719 Bobby Jones Ct., Palmetto, ($570k homestead) disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission effective immediately following a May 5 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2000)

Harrison was involved in one disciplinary matter pertaining to an SEC judgment entered against her.

(Case No: SC22-386)

Securities and Exchange Commission v. Diane J. Harrison, et al.,

Civil Action No. 18-cv-01003

(M.D. Fla., filed April 25, 2018 before Judge Steven Merryday)

SEC Charges Lawyer and Two Others in Microcap Fraud Schemes

Litigation Release No. 24122 / April 30, 2018

The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil injunctive action on April 25, 2018, against a lawyer and two other individuals relating to two microcap schemes involving undisclosed “blank check” companies. In separate, settled administrative proceedings, the SEC charged another individual and two public companies related to one of the schemes.

The SEC’s complaint alleges that attorney Diane J. Harrison, Esq. and her husband, Michael J. Daniels, both of Palmetto, Florida, manufactured at least five microcap issuers with the undisclosed intent to sell them based on their status as public companies with purportedly unrestricted shares available for resale in the public markets.

According to the complaint, Daniels and Harrison created the false appearance that the companies were pursuing specific business plans with independent management and shareholders by installing friends and family (including defendant Catherine A. Bradaick-Zolla of Sarasota, Florida, who also provided other assistance to the fraud) as purported officers and shareholders.

The SEC alleges that, in reality, Daniels and Harrison controlled the shares.

According to the complaint, Daniels and Harrison sold four of the five companies to Andy Z. Fan of Las Vegas, Nevada and, along with Bradaick-Zolla, continued to provide support to Fan.

For example, the SEC alleges that Daniels, Harrison, and Bradaick-Zolla prepared false SEC filings, Harrison submitted false legal opinion letters, and Daniels and Bradaick-Zolla entered manipulative trades to artificially set the price of the stocks in the public market.

The SEC previously issued a stop order on the public offering of the fifth company in Daniels and Harrison’s pipeline.

The SEC’s complaint also alleges that Harrison participated in a separate fraudulent scheme involving at least 11 undisclosed blank check companies secretly controlled by Alvin S. Mirman and Sheldon R. Rose.

The SEC previously filed enforcement actions against Mirman and Rose, who were also convicted of criminal charges and sentenced to prison based on the same alleged conduct.

According to the SEC’s complaint, Harrison provided at least 21 false legal opinion letters in furtherance of Mirman and Rose’s scheme.

The SEC’s complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, alleges that Harrison and Daniels violated

Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”)

and

Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”)

and

Rules 10b-5 and Rule 13a-14 thereunder,

and

aided and abetted violations of Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act

and

Rules 12b-20, 13a-1, 13a-11, 13a-13 and 13a-14 thereunder.

The complaint also alleges that Daniels violated Section 9(a) of the Exchange Act, and that Harrison also violated Sections 5(a) and 5(c) of the Securities Act.

The complaint further alleges that Harrison and Bradaick-Zolla aided and abetted violations of

Section 17(a) of the Securities Act

and

Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act

and

Rule 10b-5 thereunder.

The complaint seeks permanent injunctions, disgorgement with prejudgment interest, civil penalties, penny stock bars, and officer-and-director bars against each defendant.

In separate orders instituting settled administrative proceedings, the Commission charged Fan and two public companies under his control, AF Ocean Investment Management Company and ChinAmerica Andy Movie Entertainment Media Company, with issuing false press releases and making false SEC filings regarding their purported revenues.

The Commission also charged Fan with manipulating the price of both companies’ stock and fraudulently selling his controlling interest in another public company.

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, Fan and the two companies agreed to the entry of cease-and-desist orders.

Fan further agreed to entry of an order barring him from participating in penny stock offerings, barring him from serving as an officer or director of a public company, and ordering him to pay $140,000 in civil penalties.

AF Ocean and ChinAmerica each further agreed to entry of an order revoking their securities registrations.

The SEC’s investigation, which is continuing, has been conducted by Jeffrey T. Cook in the Miami Regional Office.

The investigation was supervised by Eric R. Busto. The SEC’s litigation will be led by Amie Riggle Berlin.

U.S. District Court
Middle District of Florida (Tampa)
CIVIL DOCKET FOR CASE #: 8:18-cv-01003-SDM-TGW

Securities and Exchange Commission v. Harrison et al
Assigned to: Judge Steven D. Merryday
Referred to: Magistrate Judge Thomas G. Wilson

Case in other court:  11th Circuit, 19-10509-E
11th Circuit, 19-11950-E

Cause: 15:0077 Securities Fraud

Date Filed: 04/25/2018
Date Terminated: 06/16/2020
Jury Demand: Defendant
Nature of Suit: 850 Securities/Commodities
Jurisdiction: U.S. Government Plaintiff

 

Date Filed # Docket Text
01/11/2021 150 ORDER–NOTICE: COMPLIANCE WITH NEW LOCAL RULE 1.08. Signed by Judge Steven D. Merryday on 1/11/2021. (BK) (Entered: 01/11/2021)

 


 

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SEC Charges Florida Attorney with Investment Fraud

May 1, 2018

The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed a civil injunctive action against a Florida lawyer accused of investor fraud.

The federal agency alleged that attorney Diane J. Harrison and her husband, Michael J. Daniels, manipulated share prices to inflate the public market value of stock they controlled.

Harrison is a business lawyer licensed to practice in Florida and Nevada.

She specializes in business planning, securities regulation, Sarbanes-Oxley Act compliance, public offerings and private placements, according to her website.

Her firm, Harrison Law, is based in Parrish, in the Bradenton–Sarasota–Venice metropolitan area on Florida’s southwestern coast.

Harrison has a degree in chemical engineering from West Virginia Institute of Technology, and once held an engineering position with the U.S. Department of Energy, according to her online biography.

Her business holdings include a plumbing company that tests and repairs residential backflow systems.

But the SEC claimed Harrison also had another line of work:

alleged scams that ran for about four years and violated anti-fraud, registration and reporting provisions of federal securities laws.

“From no later than July 2010 through August 2014, Harrison participated in two separate fraudulent schemes to manufacture public companies for sale, fundamentally premised on a deceptive public float of purportedly ‘free-trading’ securities,” according to the complaint the SEC filed April 25 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

“The creation of that deceptive public float was dependent on false and misleading statement and omissions to the Commission, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the Depository Trust Co. and others.”

The alleged fraud involved “microcap” companies — publicly traded companies with market capitalization or value of around $50-$300 million.

The SEC alleged Harrison and her husband launched at least five microcap companies to issue stock based on these firms’ ability to issue unrestricted shares on the over-the-counter market.

But the companies had no real value, according to the complaint.

Instead, the SEC alleges Daniels and Harrison created the false appearance that the companies were viable businesses with independent management and shareholders.

Instead, they used friends and relatives to pose as officers and investors.

One friend, Catherine A. Bradaick-Zolla of Sarasota, was named as a co-defendant in the SEC action.

“Harrison and Daniels’ scheme followed a consistent pattern,” according to the complaint.

They “acquired a small local business, and gifted its privately held securities to approximately 30 friends and family by providing them with all the money to ‘purchase’ the shares.”

Once the “investors” completed the acquisition, Harrison then prepared and filed paperwork with federal agencies to take the company public and offer its shares for sale. “Daniels and Harrison used the identity of a friend — sometimes without his or her knowledge — to be a fellow officer, to create a mirage of not just independent investors, but also independent management,” according to the SEC complaint.

“Each registration statement made false and misleading statements concerning the officers, the company’s business purpose and the ‘selling’ shareholders.” Harrison’s Florida Bar file shows admission in 2010 and no disciplinary history over the last 10 years.

Her Nevada file shows no disciplinary actions, and membership since 2004.

Harrison did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday on the federal charges, and no appearance was immediately entered on her behalf.

Jamindar’s Unacceptable Excuses Are Covered by Florida Bar Attorney Immunity and As Such, Accepted

Nirav Mahendra Jamindar, 17555 Nature Walk Trail, Unit 305, Parker, CO, suspended for 90 days effective 30 days following a May 5 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2008)

In one matter, Jamindar failed to timely and properly withdraw from an appellate matter, causing delay in the appeal.

In a separate instance, Jamindar represented he was “Of Counsel” for a law firm for a period of time in which he was no longer working for the law firm.

Jamindar inadvertently filed notices of appearance reflecting his “Of Counsel” designation.

In second, third, and fourth matters, Jamindar failed to properly supervise his wife, who solicited legal business for Jamindar without his knowledge.

(Case No: SC21-507)

Chris Lim Should Have Been Disbarred.  Lim’s Part of the Allan Campbell Series of Articles.

Christopher A. Lim, P.O. Box 568163, Orlando, suspended for one year effective 30 days following a May 19 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2005)

Lim became involved with two separate “private member associations” that were run by nonlawyers.

The first company marketed itself to individuals wanting to fight foreclosure cases without directly hiring an attorney.

Lim and another attorney provided legal services to the customers of the company.

After the company ceased operations, Lim joined another law firm that, in effect, was run by another “private member association” that marketed itself to individuals wanting to defend their foreclosure cases without directly hiring an attorney.

The law firm also was used by another nonlawyer’s company that directly solicited individuals who wanted to cancel their timeshare contracts.

The nonlawyer company owners controlled the operations of the law firms and had considerable input into what actions the attorneys took.

The manner in which the law firm was run caused considerable confusion as to which attorney was representing a particular client.

All fees were paid by the customers directly to the companies which then paid the attorneys a salary.

Lim also was sanctioned by the Fifth District Court of Appeal for failing to respond to two Orders to Show Cause for pursuing a meritless appeal.

(Case No: SC21-1666)

Lucente Decided that a Suspension Could be Blanked. That Didn’t Go Down Well.

Janet Peralta Lucente, 1525 N. Park Dr., Suite 102, Weston, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission after five years effective immediately following an April 28 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1997)

Lucente engaged in the practice of law after being suspended for 91 days by filing pleadings furthering litigation and held herself out as an attorney in said pleadings.

Lucente failed to provide notice of her suspension and a copy of the order to a client and failed to withdraw from the matter prior to the effective date of her suspension.

Lucente also made a misrepresentation in her affidavit to The Florida Bar when she stated she had no clients when the order of suspension was issued.

(Case No: SC22-352)

Two brothers who operated multiple South Florida addiction treatment facilities were sentenced to prison. They were also Florida Lawyers.

Daniel Markovich, 1151 Poinciana Dr., Pembroke Pines, indefinitely suspended effective 30 days following an April 28 court order

(Admitted to practice: 2017).

Markovich was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit health care and wire fraud;

two counts of health care fraud;

one count of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks;

and two counts of payment and offer kickbacks in exchange for use of services.

Markovich was sentenced to 97 months and 60 months of incarceration, all terms to run concurrently.

(Case No: SC22-566)

Jonathan Markovich, 250 95th St, Surfside, indefinitely suspended effective 30 days from an April 28 court order (Admitted to practice: 2013).

Markovich was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit health care and wire fraud;

eight counts of health care fraud;

one count of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks;

one count of payment and offer of kickbacks in exchange for use of services; one count of soliciting and receiving kickbacks;

one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering;

eight counts of money laundering; and two counts of bank fraud.

Markovich was sentenced to 188 months, 120 months, and 60 months of incarceration, all terms to run concurrently.

(Case No: SC22-570)

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Monday, March 21, 2022

Addiction Treatment Facility Operators Sentenced in $112 Million Addiction Treatment Fraud Scheme

Two brothers who operated multiple South Florida addiction treatment facilities were sentenced to prison Friday for a $112 million addiction treatment fraud scheme that included paying kickbacks to patients through patient recruiters and receiving kickbacks from testing laboratories.

“These substance abuse treatment facility operators, through brazen tactics driven by greed, took advantage of vulnerable patients seeking treatment,”

said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

“These sentences demonstrate the department’s unwavering commitment to protecting patients and prosecuting fraudulent substance abuse treatment facilities through our Sober Homes Initiative.”

Jonathan Markovich, 37, and his brother, Daniel Markovich, 33, both of Bal Harbour, were sentenced in the Southern District of Florida to 188 months and 97 months in prison, respectively.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, the defendants conspired to unlawfully bill for approximately $112 million of addiction treatment services that were medically unnecessary and/or never provided, which were procured through illegal kickbacks at two addiction treatment facilities, Second Chance Detox LLC, dba Compass Detox (Compass Detox), an inpatient detox and residential facility, and WAR Network LLC (WAR), a related outpatient treatment program.

The defendants obtained patients through patient recruiters who offered illegal kickbacks to patients, including free airline tickets, illegal drugs, and cash payments.

The defendants shuffled a core group of patients between Compass Detox and WAR in a cycle of admissions and re-admissions to fraudulently bill for as much as possible.

Patient recruiters gave patients illegal drugs prior to admission to Compass Detox to ensure admittance for detox, which was the most expensive kind of addiction treatment offered by the defendants’ facilities.

In addition, therapy sessions were billed for but not regularly provided or attended, and excessive, medically unnecessary urinalysis drug tests were ordered, billed for, and paid. Compass Detox patients were given a so-called “Comfort Drink” to sedate them, and to keep them coming back.

Patients were also given large and potentially harmful amounts of controlled substances, in addition to the “Comfort Drink,” to keep them compliant and docile, and to ensure they stayed at the facility.

“To manipulate and exploit patients seeking help in their most vulnerable state is unacceptable,”

said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

“These individuals orchestrated a scheme that sought profits over the well-being of patients, and they will be held accountable for their actions. With the help of our law enforcement partners, the FBI continues to investigate, bring down these criminal enterprises, and protect our citizens.”

After a seven-week trial in November 2021, both defendants were convicted of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud. Jonathan Markovich was convicted of eight counts of health care fraud and Daniel Markovich was convicted of two counts of health care fraud.

They were also both convicted of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks and two counts of paying and receiving kickbacks.

Jonathan Markovich was separately convicted of conspiring to commit money laundering, two counts of concealment money laundering, and six counts of laundering at least $10,000 in proceeds of unlawful activities.

He was also convicted of two counts of bank fraud related to fraudulently obtaining PPP loans for both Compass Detox and WAR during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The FBI’s Miami Field Office, Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, and the Broward County Sherriff’s Office investigated the case.

Senior Litigation Counsel Jim Hayes and Trial Attorney Jamie de Boer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section prosecuted the case.

The National Rapid Response Strike Force, Miami Strike Force, and Los Angeles Strike Force lead the Department of Justice’s Sober Homes Initiative, which was announced in the 2020 National Health Care Fraud Takedown to prosecute defendants who exploit vulnerable patients seeking treatment for drug and/or alcohol addiction.

Topic(s):
Coronavirus
Disaster Fraud
Health Care Fraud
Component(s):
Criminal Division
Criminal – Criminal Fraud Section
Press Release Number:
22-270

PENDING CRIMINAL DIVISION CASES

Sober Homes Takedown

United States v. Jonathan Markovich et al. (21-CR-60020)

All hearings will be held before Judge William P. Dimitrouleas United States Courthouse, 299 East Broward Blvd. #108, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301 unless otherwise noted.

Latest Updates:

On March 24, 2022 defendant Jose Santeiro was found guilty by a federal jury. His sentencing hearing has been set for June 17, 2022 at 01:30 PM.

The arraignment hearing for defendant Jeffrey Draesel has been reset for June 19, 2022 at 11:00 AM.

The sentencing hearing for defendant Waserstein has been reset for June 27, 2022 at 01:15 PM.

The sentencing hearing for defendant Bosch has been set for June 30, 2022 at 01:15 PM.

On May 10, 2022 defendant Lieberman was sentenced to 13 months of imprisonment, followed by 3 years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $1,851,538.51 in restitution.

On March 18, 2022 defendant Jonathan Markovich was sentenced to 188 months of imprisonment followed by 3 years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $2,122,500 in restitution.

On March 18, 2022 defendant Daniel Markovich was sentenced to 97 months of imprisonment followed by 3 years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $1,850,000 in restitution.

On March 10, 2022 defendant Elan Bakhshi was sentenced 25 months of imprisonment followed by 3 years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $2,904,187 in restitution.

On April 6, 2022, defendant Christopher Garnto was sentenced to 24 months’ imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $375,227 in restitution.

The sentencing hearing previously scheduled for defendant Kustura has been cancelled.

Please note that due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, courthouses may have different rules regarding in-person attendance. Please check the court’s website or contact us at Victimassistance.fraud@usdoj.gov if you are planning to attend.

Criminal Charges:

On or about September 25, 2020, ten defendants were charged by criminal complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida for their alleged participation in conspiracies to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, violate the Eliminating Kickbacks in Recovery Act, and money laundering offenses. Defendant Jonathan Markovich was also charged with bank fraud and false statements to a financial institution for seeking Paycheck Protection Program loans.

These defendants are owners, operators, doctors, and patient recruiters for two substance abuse treatment centers in Broward County, Florida:

Second Chance Detox, LLC, doing business as Compass Detox (“COMPASS”), a detox and residential inpatient facility,

and

WAR Network, LLC (“WAR”), a related outpatient program.

Eight of these defendants were indicted on January 19, 2021.

On November 4, 2021, Defendant Jonathan Markovich was convicted of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, health care fraud, conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks, payment and offer of kickbacks in exchange for use of services, soliciting and receiving kickbacks, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering, and bank fraud.

Defendant Daniel Markovich was also convicted of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, health care fraud, conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks, and payment and offer of kickbacks in exchange for use of services.

For more information about the Sober Homes Takedown, please see below:

Criminal Complaint

Assistance for those with medical needs who may have been impacted by the Sober Homes Takedown enforcement actions:

DOJ, DEA, HHS-OIG, HHS’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Florida Department of Children and Families are deploying federal and state-level strategies to address patient harm and ensure continuity of care. Additional information regarding available treatment programs and where patients can turn for assistance is as follows:

Mental Health & Substance Abuse Resources in Miami-Dade County
Thriving Mind South Florida Brochure

Victim Impact Statement: If you would like to submit a Victim Impact Statement, you may do so by mailing the Victim Impact Statement to: Victim Witness Unit, U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Fraud Section, 10th & Constitution Avenue, NW, Bond Building, Room 4416, Washington, DC 20530. You also may submit the Victim Impact Statement via email at VictimAssistance.fraud@usdoj.gov or by fax at: (202) 514-3708.

Victim Impact Statement (PDF)

The information on this website will be updated as new developments arise in the case. If you have any questions, please call the Victim Assistance Line toll-free at (888) 549-3945 or email us at VictimAssistance.fraud@usdoj.gov.

Presumption of Innocence: It is important to keep in mind that an indictment contains allegations only, and that defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. That presumption requires both the court and our office to take certain steps to ensure that justice is served.

Crime Victims’ Rights Act and Right to Retain Counsel: The Crime Victims’ Rights Act (18 U.S.C. § 3771) applies only to victims of the counts charged in federal court, and thus individuals may not be able to exercise all of these rights if the crime of which the individual is a victim was not charged. Section 377I(c)(2) of this Act requires that we advise you that you have the right to retain counsel. Although the statute specifically sets forth your right to seek advice of an attorney with regard to your rights under the statute, there is no requirement that you retain counsel. The Government may not recommend any specific counsel, nor can the government (or the court) pay for counsel to represent you. Government attorneys represent the United States.

If you elect to obtain counsel to represent your interests, please have your attorney notify this office in writing at: U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Fraud Section, 10th & Constitution Avenue, NW, Bond Building, 4th Floor, Washington, DC 20530, Attention: Victim Witness Unit; fax: (202) 514-3708; or email: VictimAssistance.fraud@usdoj.gov. If you elect not to retain counsel to represent your interests, you do not need to do anything.

Meadors Abhorrent Criminal Acts

Michael Jay Meadors, 500 E. University Ave., Suite B, Gainesville, permanent disciplinary revocation effective 30 days following an April 28 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2003)

Meadors is charged by criminal information with one count of child sexual battery

(Count I, Capital Felony),

and 21 counts of promoting 23-1 and possessing a sexual performance by a child

(Counts II-X, First Degree Felonies, and XI-XXII, Second Degree Felonies).

(Case No: SC22-245)

Mitchell’s Not Receivin’ First Amendment Protection for Bashin’ Outlaws in Dirty Black Robes

Raymond B. Mitchell, 3717 Del Prado Blvd. S., Suite 1, Cape Coral, suspended for 91 days effective 30 days following a March 28 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1994)

Mitchell was found to have engaged in conduct that was prejudicial to the administration of justice and of making disparaging statements which impugned the qualifications and integrity of a judge.

(Case No: SC20-1777)

Newman Needed to Top Up His Retirement, And His Wish Was Granted, Free of Criminal Prosecution

Lawrence Bruce Newman, (75), 1900 Glades Rd., Boca Raton [virtual address, the actual home address for Newman is 17100 Grand Bay Dr, Boca Raton, FL, 33496-2913], disciplinary revocation with leave to apply for readmission effective April 27 following a May 12 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1974)

Newman agreed to a disciplinary revocation concerning the misuse of funds.

(Case No: SC22-402)

Ramer Needs Coached

Alan Howard Ramer, 10602 S.W. 77th Terr., Miami, suspended for 91 days effective 30 days following a May 20 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1988)

This is a reciprocal discipline action stemming from a six-month suspension order by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida that was to be rescinded if Ramer complied with remedial requirements.

To date, he has not complied.

Ramer repeatedly failed to timely comply with discovery requests and/or produce complete responses, failed to attend court-ordered mediation, failed to respond to opposing counsel’s emails, failed to comply with court orders, and failed to comply with the local rules for the Southern District Court of Florida.

(SC20-1027)

Lawyer Rheinstein is Filin’ Frivolously and Makin’ Threats. Move to Texas, That Behavior is Deemed Zealous Advocacy.

Jason Edward Rheinstein, P.O. Box 1369, Severna Park, MD, disbarred effective 30 days following a May 20 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2008)

Rheinstein was found to have filed numerous pleadings lacking merit in violation of rules of procedure in both federal and state cases.

Rheinstein also filed numerous frivolous pleadings and took positions unsupported by the facts or the law.

Rheinstein violated the rules by attempting to prove an elaborate conspiracy theory in order to force a settlement, as well as issuing unsubstantiated accusations against his legal opponent regarding a fraud scheme that led a court to believe the opponent was under federal investigation.

Rheinstein also engaged in a series of actions,

including threatening to report his opponent’s attorneys to the Attorney Grievance Commission if they refused to drop an appeal or withdraw from the case,

making accusations of ex parte communication with the clerk’s office in an effort to manipulate the trial record,

and

threatening opposing counsels with claims related to their clients’ alleged fraudulent conduct.

This is a reciprocal discipline action based on an order from The Court of Appeals of Maryland dated January 24, 2020.

(Case No: SC20-1614)

Sarbinoff is a Lawyer and a Criminal. Grant, You’re the Perfect Lawyer.

Grant Griffith Sarbinoff, 411 N.E. 53rd St., Miami, indefinitely suspended effective 30 days following an April 28 court order

(Admitted to practice: 2010). (Now showing as ‘RETIRED’, per Fl. Bar Profile).

Sabrinoff was adjudicated guilty of the following felony offenses:

two counts of criminal use of personal identification information;

one count of unlawful use of a two-way communications device;

and

16 counts of offenses against users of computers.

(Case No: SC22-573)

Siegmeister is a Prosecutor Who Requested and Received Bribes for Reduced Sentences Over Many, Many Years. His Criminal Trial is Currently Ongoing. Note: there’s not a Detailed Summary in this Disbarment by the Florida Judiciary, LIF knows Why.

Jeffrey Alan Siegmeister, P.O. Box 329, Live Oak, permanent disciplinary revocation, effective 30 days following an April 28 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1994)

On February 22, 2022, Siegmeister pled guilty to the following:

conspiracy to use a facility of commerce for unlawful activity,

in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 371 and 1952(a)(3);

conspiracy to interfere with commerce by extortion,

in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a);

wire fraud,

in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343;

and filing a false tax return,

in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7206(1).

(Case No: SC22-307)

KC Wright’s Behavin’ Like a Normal Lawyer – Unfortunately, He Got Himself Arrested and is Now a Fugitive

Kenneth Carl Wright, 121 South Orange Ave., Suite 1500, Orlando, disbarred effective immediately following a May 12 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1988)

Wright was arrested for suspected shoplifting, for trespassing and resisting arrest without violence on March 10, 2020.

In August of 2020, Wright entered a plea to the trespass charge and received a time served jail sentence and a withhold of adjudication.

The resisting without violence charge was dismissed by the state pursuant to Wright’s plea agreement.

Wright failed to advise The Florida Bar of his criminal plea.

In September 2020, Wright was arrested in Denver, Colorado, for burglary.

Wright failed to appear for his court proceedings in relation to that charge.

He absconded and is subject to a warrant for arrest as a fugitive from justice.

Wright did not participate in the Bar’s disciplinary proceedings against him.

(Case No: SC21-1215)

The Florida Supreme Court, The Florida Bar and its Department of Lawyer Regulation are charged with administering a statewide disciplinary system to enforce Supreme Court rules of professional conduct for the more than 110,000 members of The Florida Bar.

Key discipline case files that are public record are posted to attorneys’ individual online Florida Bar profiles.

To view discipline documents, follow these steps.

Information on the discipline system and how to file a complaint are available at www.floridabar.org/attorneydiscipline.

Court orders are not final until time expires to file a rehearing motion and, if filed, determined.

The filing of such a motion does not alter the effective date of the discipline.

Disbarred lawyers may not reapply for admission for five years.

They are required to go through an extensive process that includes a rigorous background check and retaking the Bar exam.

Attorneys suspended for periods of 91 days and longer must undergo a rigorous process to regain their law licenses including proving rehabilitation.

Disciplinary revocation is tantamount to disbarment.

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Florida

The Unwanted Dictator Gov Ron DeSantis Employs a Foreign Agent For His Presidential Campaign

Christina Pushaw, press secretary for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), has become a prominent protector of her boss and a fierce critic of the media.

Published

on

DeSantis spokeswoman belatedly registers as agent of foreign politician

Christina Pushaw’s disclosure of work for Mikheil Saakashvili came after contact from the Justice Department, her attorney said

JUN 8, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUN 9, 2022

A spokeswoman for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) this week registered as a foreign agent of a former president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, belatedly detailing work she performed for the politician between 2018 and 2020.

The spokeswoman, Christina Pushaw, made the disclosure following contact from the Justice Department, according to her attorney, Michael Sherwin.

She began her work in 2018 as a volunteer in the post-Soviet country, Sherwin said, and was ultimately paid $25,000 over the course of two years.

She received her first payment, of $10,000 in October 2018, in cash, according to her filing.

She stayed for free for six weeks in an apartment owned by a Saakashvili associate in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital.

“Her efforts included writing op-eds, reaching out to supporters and officials, and advocating on his behalf in Georgia and in the United States,”

Sherwin said.

“The work ended in 2020. Ms. Pushaw was notified recently by the DOJ that her work on behalf of Mr. Saakashvilli likely required FARA registration. Ms. Pushaw filed for the registration retroactively as soon as she was made aware.”

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.

The episode reflects standard enforcement practices under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), said Joshua Ian Rosenstein, an expert on the 1938 law at D.C.-based Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein and Birkenstock.

A letter of inquiry may prompt a voluntary registration, he said, to “short-circuit a more formal determination of a failure to comply.”

Enforcement can take place years after the activity in question if authorities receive a complaint or simply act on a public news item, he said. Though the methods are standard, Rosenstein added, there is an increased willingness to use them.

Last month, the Justice Department sued Steve Wynn, a developer and Republican megadonor, seeking to compel him to register as an agent of China.

Days before that, a Washington lobbying firm said a probe into its work for Burisma Holdings concluded when it submitted a new filing retroactively detailing its activities on behalf of the Ukrainian oil and natural gas company, which once counted Hunter Biden as a board member.

Pushaw, a year into her tenure as DeSantis’s press secretary, has become a prominent protector of her boss and a fierce critic of the media. Twitter briefly locked her account last year after the Associated Press said the criticism she directed at a reporter caused him to receive death threats.

She has written openly on social media of her work for Saakashvili, who was arrested last year when he returned to Georgia after eight years in exile.

Associated with factions critical of the Kremlin, Saakashvili led Georgia from 2004 until 2013 and entered Ukrainian politics after that country removed a pro-Russian president in 2014.

A court in Georgia, now controlled by Saakashvili’s political opponents, convicted him in absentia in 2018. He faced arrest three years later when he made a theatrical return to his country, posting a copy of his plane ticket on social media.

According to Pushaw’s LinkedIn profile, she joined the governor’s office in May 2021 after her time as director of a nonprofit “focused on empowering youth through education and professional development opportunities” based in Tbilisi.

She also lists experience as a campaign strategist for a Georgian opposition party and, on other social media, has identified that party as the United National Movement, which Saakashvili once chaired.

In her filing with the Justice Department, dated June 6, she wrote that her activities “included perception management, public relations, and preparation and dissemination of informational materials to an international audience, including U.S. persons and entities.”

Pushaw’s work for Saakashvili involved going toe-to-toe in 2018 with W. Samuel Patten, a political consultant who had just pleaded guilty to not registering as an agent of a Ukrainian political party.

As part of his plea deal, Patten agreed to assist special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in his investigation of foreign influence in the 2016 election.

In communication reproduced at the time by George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, Pushaw claims to have contacted the Justice Department about messages allegedly sent by Patten to a former aide to Saakashvili before the Georgian exile’s appearance on CNN.

In the appearance, which included discussion of Patten’s case, Saakashvili read aloud the messages said to have come from Patten, including a warning to “call off your trolls now, or I’ll start releasing things about Misha he’d prefer I didn’t.”

“Today, I contacted the DOJ to report Sam’s threat and send over the screenshots,”

Pushaw wrote to Turley, who appeared on CNN after Saakashvili.

“I believe Sam knew [Saakashvili] would talk about the case on CNN yesterday, since I announced it on Facebook a few hours beforehand. I think Sam sent the threat right before the interview to coerce him into silence.”

Patten called the suggestion that he was bullying Saakashvili or his associates “absurd, backwards and disproven.”

Turley said he reproduced Pushaw’s message with her permission.

Sherwin, her attorney, did not respond to a question about the 2018 episode.

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