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What You Should Do When You Are Under Stark Law Investigation?

Categories: Health Care Law

Stark Law investigations

About the Stark Law

The Stark Law (42 U.S.C. § 1395nn), also known as the Physician Self-Referral Law, imposes limitations on a physician’s right to refer patients to medical service providers in which the physician (or a family member of the physician) has a financial interest or a financial relationship.  The Stark Law only applies to medical services that are paid for by the Medicare or Medicaid programs, and the scope of the Stark Law is additionally limited by enumerated statutory exceptions and the types of medical services that fall it applies to.  The Stark Law is a strict liability statute.

Common Mistakes to Avoid if You Are Under Stark Law Investigation

1. Do Not Speak with Investigators

Unless and until you have been subpoenaed, you do not have to speak with federal investigators, and you should never speak with federal investigators unless you have a lawyer present for the interview.  Your refusal of an interview cannot be held against you in future legal proceedings.  In fact, to the contrary, if you do speak with investigators, that information will likely be used against you in the investigation.

Regardless of whether the investigators requesting the interview inform you that you are a target of their investigation, you should assume that you are a target or a potential target and that the investigators are hoping to glean incriminating information from you during the interview.

2. Do Not Communicate About Your Case

As soon as you learn that you are under a Stark Law investigation, you should avoid communicating about the facts of your case to anyone other than your lawyer.  Any written records of communication, such as text messages, emails, or phone records, may be subpoenaed as evidence for the prosecution.

Likewise, anyone to whom you provide evidence about your case may be subpoenaed to testify about that evidence at a grand jury proceeding or at trial.  You should also avoid speaking about your case on social media or any other public forum, as federal investigators may obtain records of anything you post and use that as evidence against you.

3. Do Not Destroy Evidence

While Stark Law investigations are civil in nature, they can become criminal investigations if investigators suspect that a target is committing obstruction of justice.  Investigators will consider any destruction of evidence to be obstruction of justice, which is punishable by prison time, probation, and criminal fines.

Acts that constitute destruction of evidence include altering, deleting, or destroying electronic files, paper files, text messages, computer data, and voice messages.  Breaking or throwing away electronic devices that contain information or files, such as phones or laptops, may also be considered destruction of evidence.  Notably, the laws against destruction of evidence apply regardless of whether the government has requested the evidence at issue.

Choosing the Right Defense Team

Hiring an attorney with specific experience in health care fraud defense is critical to your defense if you are under investigation for Stark Law violations.  Stark Law investigations are conducted by federal investigators and federal prosecutors, who operate in a separate court system than state law enforcement officials and prosecutors.  Therefore, you need an attorney with experience in the federal court system and federal procedures.

Additionally, you want an attorney who is familiar with the healthcare industry and healthcare regulations; you do not want to be explaining the Stark Law and its exceptions to your defense counsel.  Stark Law violations often result from inadvertent mistakes or misunderstandings, as opposed to criminal intent.  An experienced health care defense attorney will understand how such errors are made and have the ability to explain that to investigators in a plausible and convincing manner.

Here are some questions you should posit before hiring an attorney to defend you in your Stark Law investigation:

  • Do you have experience in Stark Law investigations?
  • How many Stark Law representations resulted in no civil and no criminal liability?
  • Are you familiar with the Stark Law exceptions?
  • Do you have experience working as a federal prosecutor?
  • How often have you represented clients at trial?
  • Will a senior attorney be assigned to my case, or will I have to work with junior attorneys and support staff?

Our Track Record

  • Stark Law Investigation of Nationally Operating Healthcare Business by the Department of Defense
    Result: No Liability.
  • Stark Law Investigation of Healthcare Business by the Office of Inspector General
    Result: No Liability.
  • Stark Law Investigation of Physician Owned Entity by the Department of Health and Human Services
    Result: No Liability.
  • Stark Law Investigation of Physician Owned Entity by the Office of Inspector General
    Result: No Liability.
  • Stark Law Investigation of Physician Owned Entity by the Department of Justice
    Result: No Liability.

Stark Law Defense Attorneys Serving Your Area

  • Nick Oberheiden has years of healthcare fraud defense experience, and has successfully defended doctors, pharmacies, laboratories, and healthcare business owners and executives against allegations of fraud, false claims, kickbacks, and prescription fraud, brought by the DOJ, OIG, CMS, IRS, FBI, DEA, DOD (Department of Defense), and other federal agencies. Dr. Oberheiden is trained in negotiations by Harvard Law School, and he received his Juris Doctor from UCLA School of Law as well as a PhD in law.
  • Attorney Lynette S. Byrd focuses her practice on civil and criminal litigation, Medicare and insurance audits, and general advice and counseling in health care law. She is a former Assistant United States Attorney with years of substantial trial experience under her belt who merges excellent litigation skills with profound understanding of the law.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Oberheiden & McMurrey, LLP Today

Comprised of former federal healthcare prosecutors and seasoned healthcare defense attorneys, Oberheiden & McMurrey, LLP represents clients throughout the United States who are facing federal investigations for Stark Law violations.  If you are under a Stark Law investigation, contact us today to see how we may be able to help you with your case.  Our attorneys are available seven days a week, even on weekends, for a free and confidential consultation.

Oberheiden & McMurrey, LLP
(800) 810-0259
(214) 469-9009
www.federal-lawyer.com
This information has been prepared for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information may constitute attorney advertising in some jurisdictions. Reading of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship. Prior results do not guarantee similar future outcomes. Oberheiden & McMurrey, LLP is a Texas LLP with headquarters in Dallas. Mr. Oberheiden limits his practice to federal law.
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