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United States v. Houser

United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

June 19, 2014, Decided

No. 12-14302

Opinion

 [*1337]  RIPPLE, Circuit Judge:

Following a four-week bench trial, George D. Houser was convicted of one count of conspiring with his wife, Rhonda Washington Houser ("Washington"), to commit health care fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349, of eight counts of payroll tax fraud, in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7202, and of two counts of failure to timely file income tax returns, in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7203. The district court sentenced Mr. Houser to 240 months' imprisonment and ordered him to pay nearly $7 million in restitution to Medicare and Medicaid and more than $870,000 to the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS").  [**2] For the reasons set forth in the following opinion, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

A. Facts2

During the early 1990s, a period before the events giving rise to his conviction, Mr. Houser had operated two nursing home facilities in Rome, Georgia. After he failed to pay payroll taxes for employees, the IRS seized one facility, and the State of Georgia revoked Mr. Houser's license to operate nursing homes. The IRS also placed tax liens on the nursing homes. During the ten years when the liens were active, Mr. Houser occasionally went to the local IRS office to inquire about the pay-off amounts. Full payment of the amounts owed never was made.

When the liens expired in 2003, Mr. Houser sought to reestablish his control over the two facilities, Mount Berry Convalescent Center and Moran Lake Convalescent Center ("Mount Berry" and "Moran Lake," respectively). He created Forum Healthcare Group, Inc. ("FHG"), and FHG assumed management of the facilities. State records and the Medicare and Medicaid provider applications list Washington, Mr. Houser's then-girlfriend, as the owner,  [**3] president and office manager of FHG.3 In September 2003, FHG also assumed management of Wildwood Park Nursing and Rehabilitation Center ("Wildwood") in Brunswick, Georgia.

During the period covered by the indictment, Mount Berry, Moran Lake and Wildwood were all licensed care facilities and certified recipients of Medicare and Medicaid funds. The facilities' total capacity was 404 residents, and occupancy rates ranged between seventy-five and ninety percent. Of these residents, approximately eighty to ninety percent had their care funded by Medicare or Medicaid.

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754 F.3d 1335 *; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 11548 **; 113 A.F.T.R.2d (RIA) 2014-2597; 24 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. C 1469; 2014 WL 2767200

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee, versus GEORGE D. HOUSER, Defendant - Appellant.

Subsequent History: Related proceeding at Houser v. Church, 271 F. Supp. 3d 197, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 155986 (D.D.C., Sept. 22, 2017)

Supplemental opinion at, Post-conviction proceeding at Houser v. United States, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 193545 (N.D. Ga., Oct. 16, 2018)

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. D.C. Docket No. 4:10-cr-00012-HLM-WEJ-1.

United States v. Houser, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 97456 (N.D. Ga., Apr. 2, 2012)

Disposition: AFFIRMED.

CORE TERMS

residents, worthless, district court, facilities, nursing facility, nursing home, payroll tax, indictment, conspiracy, patients, Counts, conditions, bills, healthcare, funds, willfulness, provide a service, checks, failure to file, fail to pay, substandard, employees, willfully, staff, beyond a reasonable doubt, fraudulent claim, reimbursement, conspired, deposited, sentenced

Criminal Law & Procedure, Inchoate Crimes, Conspiracy, Elements, Healthcare Law, General Overview, Fraud, Fraud Against the Government, Attempt, Penalties, Business & Corporate Compliance, Services for Disabled & Elderly Persons, Care Facilities, Nursing Facilities, Evidence, Types of Evidence, Circumstantial Evidence, Preliminary Proceedings, Pretrial Motions & Procedures, Dismissal, Burdens of Proof, Proof Beyond Reasonable Doubt, Trials, Prosecution, Criminal Offenses, Inferences & Presumptions, Inferences, Standards of Review, Substantial Evidence, Sufficiency of Evidence, Verdicts, Tax Fraud, Classification of Offenses, Felonies, Acts & Mental States, Mens Rea, Willfulness, Misdemeanors, Tax Law, Administration, Place & Time for Filing Returns, Time to File Returns, Harmless & Invited Error