In our last post, we wrote about a Florida ambulance company’s refusal to participate in a settlement involving fraud charges on the grounds that the company denied fraudulent intent in submitting inappropriate claims to Medicare. While the settlement involved civil fraud charges, it is worth pointing out that the issue of fraudulent intent is an important one in criminal fraud cases.
Without being able to demonstrate fraudulent intent, prosecutors are not able to secure a conviction in many fraud cases. Because there is often no direct evidence of fraudulent intent, though, prosecutors are usually required to make their case with circumstantial evidence, which only indirectly proves fraudulent intent. Because circumstantial evidence always involves—more or less—an exercise of connecting the dots, it is critical for defendants to carefully scrutinize circumstantial evidence used by prosecutors at trial.
Federal fraud statutes, it could be pointed out, vary as to whether specific proof of intent is actually required, so it is important for defendants to work with an experienced attorney in building a strong defense against the specific charges in their case. At least in wire and mail fraud cases, federal statutes permits proof of fraudulent intent by means of the statements and conduct of the defendant. There are a variety of types of evidence that can be permitted as circumstantial evidence of fraudulent intent, including: impression testimony; evidence that a representation was made with reckless indifference; and evidence that injury was a necessary result of the defendant’s conduct or statements.
Proving fraudulent intent is often not that difficult for prosecutors, but there can be cases where the evidence prosecutors offer to prove fraudulent intent is weak. In any case, defendants facing fraud charges will have a fighting chance if they work with an experienced criminal defense attorney. In a future post, we’ll look a little more closely at federal statutes commonly used in health care fraud cases.