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February 18, 2020

"Trump grants clemency to 11, including former junk bond king Michael Milken"

I have previously noted in this post three of Prez Trump's the high-profile clemency recipients today — Blagojevich, DeBartolo and Kerik — and I could not help but note these three were all white men of relative privilege convicted of crimes of power.  But now I see this Los Angeles Times piece, which has the headline that serves as the title of this post, and I am learning that a total of 11 persons have received clemency from Prez Trump today:

President Trump Tuesday granted full pardons to seven convicted felons including Michael Milken, the former junk bond king who became a face of the insider trading financial scandals of the 1980s. An official White House statement praised Milken, who served two years in prison in the 1990s, was for his philanthropy.

Trump also commuted the sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, found guilty nine years ago for trying to sell an open U.S. Senate seat.  Trump announced the news at Joint Base Andrews as he embarked on a four-day west coast swing and just hours after the White House announced the first pardon, that of former San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo, Jr., who was convicted in a gambling fraud scandal....

Trump also issued full pardons to Ariel Friedler, Paul Pogue, David Safavian and Angela Stanton. And he commuted sentences for three others: Tynice Nichole Hall, Crystal Munoz and Judith Negron. 

Here is the link to the "Statement from the Press Secretary Regarding Executive Grants of Clemency" providing lots of background on all these individuals. Because of the sentencing element, I find the commutations especially interesting and here is how they are described (with bolding in the original):

In addition, the President is commuting the sentences of four individuals who have paid their debts to society and have worked to improve their lives and the lives of others while incarcerated.

Rod Blagojevich was the Governor of Illinois from 2003 until 2009, when he was charged with, among other things, offering an appointment to the United States Senate in exchange for campaign contributions. He was convicted of those charges and sentenced to 14 years in prison. Although the Seventh Circuit reversed some of his convictions related to the Senate appointment, it did not alter his 14-year sentence. He has spent 8 years in prison. People from across the political spectrum and from varied backgrounds have expressed support for shortening Mr. Blagojevich’s sentence, including Senator Dick Durbin, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr., former Representative Bob Barr, Representatives Bobby Rush and Danny Davis, former Attorney General Eric Holder, and Bishop Byron Brazier. Additionally, more than a hundred of Mr. Blagojevich’s fellow inmates have written letters in support of reducing his sentence. During his confinement, Mr. Blagojevich has demonstrated exemplary character, devoting himself to improving the lives of his fellow prisoners. He tutors and teaches GED classes, mentors prisoners regarding personal and professional development, and speaks to them about their civic duties. Notwithstanding his lengthy sentence, Mr. Blagojevich also counsels inmates to believe in the justice system and to use their time in prison for self-improvement. His message has been to “keep faith, overcome fear, and never give up.”

Tynice Nichole Hall is a 36-year-old mother who has served nearly 14 years of an 18-year sentence for allowing her apartment to be used to distribute drugs. While in prison, Ms. Hall has completed a number of job-training programs and apprenticeships, as well as coursework towards a college degree. In addition, Ms. Hall has taught prison educational programs to other inmates. She has accepted responsibility for her past behavior and has worked hard to rehabilitate herself. Among those who support this grant of clemency are Clemency for All Non-Violent Drug Offenders Foundation, Alice Johnson, Dan Schneider, Matt Whitaker, Adam Brandon, Kevin Roberts, Brett Tolman, and John Hostettler.

Crystal Munoz has spent the past 12 years in prison as a result of a conviction for having played a small role in a marijuana smuggling ring. During this time, she has mentored people working to better their lives, volunteered with a hospice program, and demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to rehabilitation. The Texas A&M Criminal Defense Clinic, the Clemency for All Non-Violent Drug Offenders Foundation, Dan Schneider, Matt Whitaker, Adam Brandon, Kevin Roberts, Brett Tolman, John Hostettler, and Alice Johnson are among the many who support this grant of clemency.

Judith Negron is a 48-year-old wife and mother who was sentenced to 35 years in prison for her role as a minority-owner of a healthcare company engaged in a scheme to defraud the Federal Government. Ms. Negron has served 8 years of her sentence and has spent this time working to improve her life and the lives of her fellow inmates. Her prison warden and her counselor have written letters in support of clemency. According to her warden, Ms. Negron “has always shown herself to be a model inmate who works extremely well with others and has established a good working relationship with staff and inmates.” This grant of clemency is supported by the Clemency for All Non-Violent Drug Offenders Foundation, Dan Schneider, Matt Whitaker, Adam Brandon, Kevin Roberts, Brett Tolman, John Hostettler, and Alice Johnson, among others.

I am pretty sure based on postings at the CAN-DO site that Tynice Nichole Hall, Crystal Munoz and Judith Negron are all women of color.   Gosh darn that Prez Trump, who always seems to find a way to both confirm and refute criticisms of how he approaches criminal justice matters.

February 18, 2020 at 02:49 PM | Permalink

Comments

Thank goodness it is finally on the move.

How about a kick in the pants for the judge and prosecutors who sentenced the two women with those outrageous sentences. Oh, yeah..."we were following the Guidelines."

Posted by: Fluffyross | Feb 18, 2020 3:04:47 PM

Is it misguided to suggest that all these recipients might consider sending thank-you notes to Roger Stone (or the prosecutors who urged that he get up to 9 years)...

Posted by: Doug B. | Feb 18, 2020 3:27:11 PM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DALLAS, TEXAS
CONTACT: 214/659-8600
www.usdoj.gov/usao/txn
JULY 28, 2006

CONVICTED DEFENDANTS IN DRUG CASES
SENTENCED TO LENGTHY FEDERAL PRISON TERMS

In U.S. District Court in Lubbock, Texas, today, several defendants, convicted on various drug charges, were sentenced by the Honorable Sam R. Cummings, United States District Judge, to substantial federal prison sentences, announced U.S. Attorney Richard B. Roper.

Tynice Nicole Hall, age 23, of Lubbock, was sentenced to 35 years (420 months) in federal prison, without parole. In May 2006, Hall was convicted by a federal jury in Lubbock on five counts of an indictment charging conspiracy to distribute, possess with intent to distribute and manufacture cocaine base (crack cocaine); one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine base (crack cocaine); one count of possession of cocaine with intent to manufacture cocaine base (crack cocaine); possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking crimes; and receipt of firearms by a person under felony indictment. Hall had in her possession one-half pound of crack cocaine, one-half pound of powder cocaine, 12 kilogram wrappers, approximately 13 pounds of baking soda and two firearms, including a Tec-9 loaded with 27 rounds believed to be used in drive-by shootings.

Christopher Jolly, age 29, of Lubbock, who pled guilty in May to one count of conspiracy to distribute, possess with intent to distribute and manufacture more than 50 grams of cocaine base (crack cocaine), was sentenced to more than 27 years (327 months) imprisonment without parole.

Gregory Joy, age 35, of Lubbock, pled guilty in May to one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine base (crack cocaine) and was sentenced to more than 16 years (200 months) in federal prison, without parole.

Ronald Rashone Ross, age 25, of Lubbock, pled guilty in May to distribution of and possession with intent to distribute cocaine base (crack cocaine). He was sentenced today to more than 12 years (151 months) in federal prison, without parole.

In another case, unrelated to the above, defendant Benjamin Cano, age 51, of California, was sentenced to life imprisonment. A federal jury convicted Cano in May on two counts of an indictment charging him with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine and possession with intent to distribute cocaine. He was stopped in Abilene, Texas, in January 2006 with nearly 90 pounds of cocaine. He has spent nearly 25 years of his life in the California Penal System.

U.S. Attorney Roper praised the investigative efforts of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Lubbock Police Department, the Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office, the San Angelo Office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the West Central Texas Interlocal Crime Task Force, the Nolan County District Attorney’s Office and the Taylor County Sheriff’s Office. The cases were prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Tanya Pierce of the Lubbock, Texas, U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Posted by: Bob | Feb 18, 2020 3:43:58 PM

Bob - looks like she benefited from Drugs Minus 2 - and/or the FSA and now she gets released early. However, I don't think I can say I disagree with the President - don't we want inmates to be rehabilitated and return to society better than when they left? Sounds like all 3 women have done remarkably well in prison and been model inmates who "spent this time working to improve her life and the lives of her fellow inmates." I hope they can live productive lives with their families and be a role model to others.

Posted by: Atomicfrog | Feb 18, 2020 3:53:31 PM

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Owner of Miami-Area Mental Health Care Corporation Convicted on All Counts for Orchestrating $205 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme
Defendant Found Guilty of Multiple Fraud and Money Laundering Charges
WASHINGTON – A federal jury today convicted a Miami-area owner of a mental health care company, American Therapeutic Corporation (ATC), for orchestrating a fraud scheme that resulted in the submission of more than $205 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare, announced the Department of Justice, FBI and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

After a six-day trial, a jury in the Southern District of Florida found Judith Negron, 40, guilty of 24 felony counts, including conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud, conspiracy to pay and receive illegal health care kickbacks, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering and structuring to avoid reporting requirements. Negron was charged in a superseding indictment unsealed on Feb. 15, 2011.

“Judith Negron and her co-conspirators masterminded one of the largest fraud schemes ever prosecuted by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division. “They brazenly submitted more than $200 million in fraudulent claims to the Medicare program. Ms. Negron may have thought she could scam the American taxpayer with impunity. Today a Miami jury showed her otherwise, and now she has found out that the price of Medicare fraud is extremely high.”

“Through bribery, kickbacks, and the creation of false patient files and other documents, Negron and her co-conspirators submitted hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent claims to Medicare for community mental health treatments for ineligible patients,” said U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida. “After a week-long trial, a jury convicted Negron of orchestrating this massive fraud scheme. She and her co-defendants now face the prospect of lengthy prison sentences. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to lead the battle against Medicare fraud and abuse.”

Evidence at trial demonstrated that Negron, along with ATC co-owners Lawrence Duran and Marianella Valera, masterminded and executed a scheme to defraud Medicare beginning in 2002 and continuing until they were arrested in October 2010. Duran and Valera pleaded guilty to all charges against them in April 2011. Evidence at trial established that the three owners submitted false and fraudulent claims to Medicare through ATC, a Florida corporation headquartered in Miami that operated purported partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) in seven different locations throughout South Florida and Orlando. A PHP is a form of intensive treatment for severe mental illness. Negron and her co-conspirators also used a related company, American Sleep Institute (ASI), to submit fraudulent Medicare claims.

According to the evidence at trial, Negron, Duran, Valera and others paid bribes and kickbacks to owners and operators of assisted living facilities (ALFs) and halfway houses and to patient brokers in exchange for delivering ineligible patients to ATC and ASI. In some cases, the patients received a portion of those kickbacks. Throughout the course of the conspiracy, millions of dollars in kickbacks were paid in exchange for Medicare beneficiaries, who did not qualify for PHP services, to attend treatment programs that were not legitimate PHP programs, so that ATC and ASI could bill Medicare for more than $200 million in unnecessary or illegitimate services.

According to the evidence, Negron and her co-conspirators used another company they owned and operated, Medlink Professional Management Group Inc., to conceal the fraud and kickbacks scheme from Medicare and law enforcement. Once Medicare paid ATC and ASI for the fraudulently billed services, Duran, Valera and others transferred the money to Medlink. Evidence at trial showed that Negron and her co-conspirators used Medlink to pay millions of dollars in kickback payments by using an extensive money laundering scheme.

Evidence at trial demonstrated that Negron signed kickback checks to patient recruiters whose only jobs at ATC were to provide patients from halfway houses or assisted living facilities. Evidence at trial also established that Negron and others caused the alteration of patient files and therapist notes for the purpose of making it falsely appear that patients being treated by ATC qualified for PHP treatments and that the treatments provided were legitimate PHP treatments. For instance, evidence established that Negron would “robo-sign” patient files, meaning she would sign patient documents as a supervising therapist without having treated the patients. The evidence also showed that Negron signed files as though she had been in two places at once, in Boca and Homestead, Fla., at the same time. Evidence further revealed that Negron knew doctors were similarly signing patient files without reading them or seeing the patients. In some cases, Negron provided the doctors with the files for their signature. According to evidence presented at trial, Negron and her co-conspirators billed Medicare for PHP treatment, including group psychotherapy, provided to a patient who was in a neuro-vegetative state, who would not lift her head or respond. The evidence also showed that Negron and her co-conspirators caused doctors to refer ATC patients to ASI even though the patients did not qualify for sleep studies.

According to evidence at trial, the defendant and her co-conspirators concealed the fraud scheme by, among other things, creating false medical records in patient charts, concealing kickback payments as “transportation” payments, and creating sham companies with fake employee files to launder money.

Following today’s verdict, U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King remanded Negron into custody. A sentencing date for Negron has not yet been scheduled.

Duran and Valera have been in federal custody since their arrests in October 2010 and are scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 14, 2011, at 9:30 a.m. Negron, Duran and Valera each face a maximum of 10 years in prison for each count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and each count of health care fraud; five years in prison for each count of conspiracy to pay and receive health care kickbacks; 20 years in prison for each count of conspiracy to commit money laundering; 10 to 20 years in prison for each count of money laundering; and 10 years in prison for each count of structuring to avoid reporting requirements. The defendants’ assets were frozen at the time of their arrests through civil forfeiture proceedings.

Co-conspirator Margarita Acevedo, also charged in the February 2011 superseding indictment, pleaded guilty on April 7, 2011, for her role in the fraud scheme and is also scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 14, 2011.

Today’s guilty verdict was announced by Assistant Attorney General Breuer; U.S. Attorney Ferrer; John V. Gillies, Special Agent-in-Charge of the FBI’s Miami Field Office; and Special Agent-in-Charge Christopher Dennis of the HHS Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations Miami office.

The criminal case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Jennifer L. Saulino and Acting Assistant Chief Benjamin D. Singer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. A related civil action is being handled by Vanessa I. Reed and Carolyn B. Tapie of the Civil Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Ted L. Radway of the Southern District of Florida. The case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG, and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.

Since their inception in March 2007, Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,000 defendants that collectively have billed the Medicare program for more than $2.3 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

Posted by: Bob | Feb 18, 2020 3:54:19 PM

@ Doug B.

Stone AND Flynn. This is paving the way. They are being astute in both their use of political scaffolding and managing the optics.

Posted by: Daniel | Feb 18, 2020 9:37:04 PM

It is interesting to note that they were charged with conspiracy and went to trial. Their co-defendants took pleas and their sentences did not reflect the trial penalty. Conspiracy charges can be easily expanded and allow the prosecutor to tell the story. Most all nonviolent marijuana offenders with life sentences were charged with conspiracy and went to trial. This is why we have a vanishing 6th amendment.

Posted by: beth curtis | Feb 18, 2020 10:45:19 PM

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