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Prosecutors' math error leads to dismissal of theft charges

In Florida, a theft charge conviction can result in a prison sentence, fines and restitution. In addition, the collateral consequences can include loss of employment, a criminal record and serious damage to one's reputation. These far reaching consequences were a possibility for a physician in neighboring Alabama recently. But fortunately for him, the prosecution voluntarily moved to dismiss the case - due to a mathematical error.

The 51-year-old doctor was charged with two felony charges of theft from the Medicaid program. He was looking at the possibility of a 20-year prison sentence, plus fines of $60,000 on each of the two theft charges.

The doctor was initially accused of stealing over $7,000. But then defense counsel asked the prosecution to turn over the evidence against their client. It was apparently at that time that prosecutors discovered they did not have evidence of a $7,000 theft. In fact, they didn't even have evidence of a $2,500 theft - the minimum necessary for a felony theft charge in that state. At the request of the state Attorney General's office, the judge dismissed all the charges. The doctor's defense attorney says the relatively small excess payments the doctor did receive were the result of billing code errors, and that the doctor will gladly pay those amounts back.

This case shows that sometimes when the evidence supporting a serious criminal charge is exposed to the light of day, it dissolves. There simply was no basis for the state to charge this man. The reason they went after him may have something to do with the fact that the doctor is still facing charges in another case, in which he allegedly helped his son evade authorities after a shooting incident. Maybe prosecutors thought they could put some pressure on the doctor in that case by filing these charges. If that was their intent, it backfired badly.

Source: The News Courier, "AG admits math mistake, Memon charges dropped," Sept. 10, 2013

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Andrew M. Coffey has been recognized as a Board Certified Civil Trial lawyer by the Florida Bar. Certification is the highest level of recognition by The Florida Bar of the competency and experience of attorneys in the areas of law approved for certification by the Supreme Court of Florida.

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