We’re not just losing billions in tax dollars in “aid” to Pakistan. via Judges saying ‘no bond’ to white-collar suspects | Detroit Free Press | freep.com.
In Detroit, several foreign suspects have recently been ordered locked up pending trial: three are Medicare fraud suspects and two are charged in an insurance-fraud-by-arson case.
One defendant — a pharmacist with two children in the U.S. — has pleaded with the court four times to be released, to no avail.
Some said they believe judges are responding — or even echoing — the public’s growing outrage over financial greed.
“Everyone is all about punishing the money guy at this point,” said Lisa Wayne, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Wealthy foreign suspects appear to be flight risks
When the government gets ahold of suspects like Zafar Mehmood, it doesn’t let them out of its sight.
Mehmood, records show, is a wealthy Pakistani businessman who owns 16 home health agencies and a mosque in metro Detroit, along with a rice factory, a religious school and a farm in Pakistan. He frequently travels there and sends money to family back home for a cotton-spinning business, records show.
Add up all that wealth and travel, prosecutors say, and there’s no way Mehmood — who is charged with bilking $31 million from Medicare — can be trusted to be released on bond.
“There is a serious risk that Mr. Mehmood will flee to Pakistan. And if he goes, we will not be able to get him back,” trial attorney Catherine Dick of the U.S. Department of Justice argued at a recent hearing.
To the chagrin of defense lawyers, it’s an argument that appears to be swaying the courts.
In recent months, several wealthy foreigners, including Mehmood, have been denied bond in U.S. District Court after prosecutors argued their wealth and foreign ties made them a flight risk.
Among them is Babubhai (Bob) Patel, a 49-year-old pharmacist from Canton who is charged with running a $57-million prescription drug billing scheme. Patel, a U.S. citizen from India who has an army of community support, has asked four times to be released on bond — but the answer has been “no” each time.
Given his wealth and strong foreign ties, records show, Patel is viewed as a flight risk.
So is Tausif Rahman, 36, of Canton, a Pakistani citizen charged in a $14-million Medicare fraud scheme.He was denied bond in September because of his ties to family in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Canada, and his access to “substantial financial resources,” records show.
“There’s no question we’re seeing more and more of it, and there’s no question in my mind that there seems to be an ethnic component to it,” Mehmood’s lawyer, Albert Addis, said of the recent orders denying bond. “This idea that these white-collar criminals in this health care fraud stuff are more likely to flee — I think is demonstrative of a prejudice.”
Since 2007, 990 people nationwide have been charged with filing $2.3 billion in false Medicare billings. Metro Detroit, considered a hotbed for Medicare fraud, has seen at least $120 million in such billings.
Throw in the number of Medicare fugitives — 170 nationwide — and the government isn’t willing to let suspects get away on bond. Authorities note that it is the ringleaders in particular they’re targeting.
“The courts are recognizing that many of these defendants are flight risks,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney John Neal, who is part of the health care fraud unit at the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
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