The Mandatory Victims Restitution Act of 1996 (“MVRA”) provides that a victim of a federal crime may be entitled to an order of restitution for certain losses suffered as a direct result of the commission of the crime for which the defendant was convicted. A question that courts sometimes face is whether a company can be considered a “victim” under the MVRA if an employee uses that company as an instrument to defraud the federal government.
Looking at this issue, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on April 4, 2014, declined to allow a company’s bankruptcy estate to receive restitution for a large debt caused by an owner/employee’s fraud because that company was used as an instrument for that fraud. In re Bankruptcy Estate of AGS, Inc., No. 12-cr-113 (4th Cir., April 4, 2014).
Dr. Allen G. Saoud was convicted after a June 2013 jury trial of five counts of health care fraud. Dr. Saoud, who is a dermatologist, in 2005 was excluded from participating in Medicare and Medicaid for 10 years. He then plotted to maintain ownership and control of his dermatology practice, AGS, Inc. in violation of the exclusion. He founded a new dermatology practice and transferred all of his patients to this new practice. After selling his new practice to Dr. Fred Scott for $1.8 million, Dr. Saoud then sold AGS, which had lost its value, for $1 million to nurse practitioner Georgia Daniel. Despite these sales, he continued to control and profit from both entities, partly by collecting Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement funds.
After Dr. Saoud was convicted, the estate of AGS, Inc., which had filed for bankruptcy, sought a $1 million restitution award to cover bankruptcy creditor claims that stemmed partly from the underlying fraud. The district court declined. The Estate of AGS, Inc. then filed a writ of mandamus with the Fourth Circuit.
The Fourth Circuit also refused to award restitution to the Estate. The Court held that Dr. Saoud used AGS, Inc. as an instrument in his scheme to illegally obtained Medicare and Medicaid funds, and as such, the Court declined to “also hold that AGS was one of the scheme’s victims.”
AGS, Inc. should be a source of concern to companies that have sustained losses as a result of employee fraud. If an employee, director, officer or owner uses a company to defraud the government and that company incurs tax or other debt liability as a result of that fraud, that company may not be able to receive restitution under the MVRA. Jackson Lewis attorneys are available to advise companies on the scope of the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act and their rights in collecting amounts lost to criminal acts.