United States District Court, D. Connecticut
ORDER ON MOTION FOR ACQUITTAL
A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
jury trial, Ronnette Brown ("Defendant"), was
convicted on May 26, 2017, ECF No. 84, of one count of
conspiracy to commit health care fraud in violation of 18
U.S.C. § 1349 (Count One) and twenty-three counts of
health care fraud in violation of §§ 1347 and 2
(Counts Two through Twenty-Four), representing all counts in
the Indictment. ECF No. 1.
31, 2017, Ms. Brown filed a motion for an extension of time
until June 30, 2017 to file a motion for a judgment of
acquittal, ECF No. 78, and a motion for an extension of time
until June 30, 2017 to file a motion for a new trial. ECF No.
79. The Court granted both motions. ECF No. 80. On June 29,
2017, Ms. Brown filed a motion for acquittal under Rule 29(c)
of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. ECF No. 88.
reasons that follow, the Court DENIES Ms.
Brown's motion for acquittal.
trial, the Government presented testimony from thirty-one
witnesses. See Witness List, ECF No. 75. Ms. Brown
did not call any witnesses. A brief and non-exhaustive
summary of the evidence presented at trial is below.
evidence showed that Ms. Brown was the owner and operator of
We-MPACT LLC ("We-MPACT"), a social services agency
in Bristol, Connecticut. The evidence at trial established
Ms. Brown's close involvement in all aspects of the
operations at We-MPACT. Ms. Brown also established rules
requiring We-MPACT contractors, also referred to as
clinicians, to submit records of each encounter with a
client, "DAP notes, " within 24 hours of each
encounter with a client. We-MPACT Clinicians were also
required to timely submit payroll invoices, or "TRI
Forms, " to We-MPACT every two weeks. Clinicians could
be penalized by as much as $10 for each service they provided
for failure to submit DAP notes or TRI forms. Ms. Brown set
the hourly rate to be paid to clinicians for each client, and
the number and frequency of services that clinicians could
provide, communicating these to Angela Perry, who passed on
this information to the clinicians.
evidence also showed that Ms. Brown submitted claims to
Medicaid for the services purportedly rendered by We-MPACT.
Specifically, the evidence showed that Brown's computer
was used to submit claims electronically to Medicaid for
services that We-MPACT purportedly provided to their clients.
These claims were generally for psychotherapy services,
purportedly rendered by licensed clinical social workers. The
evidence showed that Ms. Brown obtained provider numbers from
Medicaid for the licensed clinical social workers that
purportedly rendered these services, and that Ms. Brown used
her computer to submit claims to Medicaid using
billing codes used for these Medicaid claims represented that
the psychotherapy services were personally provided by the
licensed clinical social worker identified as the provider
for each claim. Instead, the testimony showed that
We-MPACT's services were, in fact, rendered by
individuals who were not licensed social workers, and that
the services generally consisted of only mentoring services
provided to children, which are not covered by Medicaid.
Counts Two through Twenty-Four of the Indictment, the
twenty-three counts of health care fraud, each count involved
a specific claim submitted to Medicaid for one of eight
different clients when, in fact, no service of any kind had
been provided to the client. The Government presented the
testimony of the clients, or their family members, regarding
the clients' interactions with We-MPACT, and certain
periods of time where each client did not receive any
services from We-MPACT, including on the specific dates
associated with each of the twenty-three health care fraud
counts in the Indictment. Representatives of Medicaid and the
We-MPACT clinician who worked with each client then testified
that claims were submitted to Medicaid for services for each
of the clients for dates when the clients did not, in fact,
receive any services of any kind from We-MPACT. Despite the
record-keeping requirements that We-MPACT imposed on
clinicians, the evidence showed that there were no DAP notes
or TRI forms for any of the services provided to the clients
on the particular dates charged in Counts Two through
Twenty-Four of the indictment.
Government also presented the testimony of Madeline
Mazariegos, a licensed clinical social worker, who testified
that she worked with We-MPACT, but that she never gave anyone
at We-MPACT permission to obtain a Medicaid provider number
in her name. Ms. Mazariegos further testified that she did
not provide any services to We-MPACT clients that would be
eligible for Medicaid billing, thus We-MPACT could not
properly submit Medicaid claims with her as the rendering
provider. Yet, records from Medicaid's website showed
that Ms. Brown logged into the website, obtained a provider
number for Ms. Mazariegos at We-MPACT, and billed the
services associated with Counts Twenty through Twenty-Four of
the Indictment to Medicaid, with Ms. Mazariegos identified as
the provider of the services. The evidence showed that Ms.
Brown's computer submitted at least one of these claims,
as well as other Medicaid claims under the provider number
for Ms. Mazariegos.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule 29, the Court "on the defendant's motion must
enter a judgment of acquittal of any offense for which the
evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction." Fed.
R. Crim. P. 29(a). The defendant may file a motion for
acquittal "within 14 days after a guilty verdict or
after the court discharges the jury, whichever is later,
" and the "defendant is not required to move for a
judgment of acquittal before the court submits the case to
the jury as a prerequisite for making such a motion after
jury discharge." Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(c).
motion for judgment of acquittal under Rule 29 focuses upon
the sufficiency of the government's evidence in its case
in chief to sustain a conviction." United States v.
Botti,722 F.Supp.2d 207, 209 (D. Conn. 2010),
affd,711 F.3d 299 (2d Cir. 2013). "Under Rule
29, a district court will grant a motion to enter a judgment
of acquittal on grounds of insufficient evidence if it
concludes that no rational trier of fact could have found the
defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." United
States v. Jackson,335 F.3d 170, 180 (2d Cir. 2003). The
defendant "who challenges the sufficiency of the
evidence to support his conviction bears a heavy burden,
" because "[n]ot only must the evidence be viewed
in the light most favorable to the Government and all
permissible inferences drawn in the Government's favor,
" but "the jury verdict must be upheld if any
rational trier of fact could have found the essential
elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt."
Id. (citing Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S.
307, 319 (1979)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Thus,
"a court may grant a judgment of acquittal only if the