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United States v. Tartaglione

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

January 10, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
RENEE TARTAGLIONE, Defendant.

          OPINION

          Slomsky, J.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On January 26, 2016, the Government filed a fifty-three count Superseding Indictment charging Defendant Renee Tartaglione with various offenses, including Theft from a Health Care Benefit Program, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 669 (Counts 12-37), Theft from a Program Receiving Federal Funds in Excess of $10, 000, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 666 (Counts 38-49), Mail Fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341, 1349 (Counts 2-13), and Wire Fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1343, 1349 (Counts 14-25). (Doc. No. 3.) Defendant argues that certain offenses are multiplicitous which, under the Double Jeopardy Clause of the United States Constitution, would prevent the Government from prosecuting these offenses in the same trial. (Doc. No. 59.)

         Pursuant to her multiplicity argument, Defendant requests that the Court order the Government to proceed to trial against her only on the Counts charging the offense of Theft from a Health Care Benefit Program, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 669, and to dismiss, with prejudice, the Counts with the following charged offenses: Theft from a Program Receiving Federal Funds in Excess of $10, 000, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 666 (Counts 38-49), Mail Fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341, 1349 (Counts 2-13), and Wire Fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1343, 1349 (Counts 14-25). (Doc. Nos. 84, 86.) For reasons that follow, the Court will deny Defendant's Motion (Doc. No. 59).

         II. BACKGROUND

         In 2007, Defendant Renee Tartaglione became President of the Board of Directors of Juniata Community Mental Health Clinic (“JCMHC” or “the Clinic”), a Pennsylvania nonprofit corporation whose mission is to provide outpatient mental health services to residents in Northeast Philadelphia. (Doc. No. 88 at 1.) As a mental health clinic rendering services in an underserved community, JCMHC received Medicaid funding from the United States Government and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

         The Superseding Indictment alleges that from 2007 to 2013, Defendant “defrauded and stole from” JCMHC while serving as President of its Board of Directors. (Doc. No. 3; Doc. No. 61 at 2.) As President, Defendant obtained signatory authority for JCMHC and allegedly began issuing checks for services and goods that the Clinic never received. Defendant is charged with “direct[ing] hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulent payments from the Clinic to co-conspirators, who then delivered cash back to the defendant.” (Doc. No. 88 at 1.)

         The Superseding Indictment also alleges that Defendant caused JCMHC to make “illegitimate payments” to herself or to her holding company, Norris Hancock LLC, in the form of excessive rent. (Id.) Defendant purchased two buildings in the name of the holding company Norris Hancock LLC. The Clinic operated out of these buildings. They are located at 2254-60 North 3rd Street and 2637-45 North 5th Street, respectively, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (referred to as the “3rd Street Building” and the “5th Street Building”). After the buildings were purchased, Defendant is alleged to have steadily increased the rent charged to JCMHC, essentially funneling excessive rent payments to her holding company. Through the schemes alleged, the Superseding Indictment charges that over a period of six years, Defendant stole more than $2, 000, 000 “from the non-profit's [JCMHC's] coffers.” (Doc. No. 88 at 1.)

         Defendant argues that four charged offenses are multiplicitous: (1) Theft from a Health Care Benefit Program, (2) Theft from a Program Receiving Federal Funds in Excess of $10, 000, (3) Mail Fraud, and (4) Wire Fraud. (Doc. No. 59 at 3-4; Doc. No. 86 at 1-2.) Because the Court concludes that the offenses are not multiplicitous, the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 59) will be denied.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Defendant Renee Tartaglione is charged with the following crimes which she contends are multiplicitous:

• Mail Fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341 and § 1349 (Counts 2-13);
• Wire Fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343 and § 1349 (Counts 14-25);
• Theft from a Health Care Benefit Program, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 669 (Counts 26-37); and
• Theft from a Program Receiving Federal Funds in Excess of $10, 000, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 666 (Counts 38-49).

(Doc. Nos. 59, 86.) Defendant argues that “the Counts alleging violations of 18 U.S.C. § 669 (Counts 26-37) and 18 U.S.C. § 666 (Counts 38-49) not only duplicate each other but also are further duplicated in either the Mail Fraud Counts (Counts 2-13) or the Wire Fraud Counts (Counts 14-25).” (Doc. No. 86 at 1.) She asserts that the Government must elect, prior to trial, on which Counts it will choose to proceed because the “sets of Counts rely on identical proofs and are multiplicitous.” (Doc. No. 59 at 3.) Because these offenses rely on proof of the same underlying conduct-a series of checks Defendant allegedly caused to be issued from the Clinic on the same dates, in the same amounts, and to the same payees-Defendant contends that these charges are multiplicitous and that an election is required. (Id.) Defendant also contends that the Counts on which the Government does not proceed at trial should be dismissed. (Id.)

         Multiplicity is the charging of the same offense in two or more counts of an indictment. United States v. Kennedy, 682 F.3d 244, 254-55 (3d Cir. 2012). A multiplicitous indictment “may lead to multiple sentences for a single violation.” United States v. Carter, 576 F.2d 1061, 1064 (3d Cir. 1978). Multiple sentences for a single violation are prohibited by the Double Jeopardy Clause. United States v. Stanfa, 685 F.2d 85, 87 (3d Cir. 1982) (citing North Carolina v. Pearce, 395 U.S. 711, 717 (1969)). The purpose of the constitutional protection against duplicative punishment is “to ensure that the sentencing discretion of the courts is confined to the limits established by the legislature.” Kennedy, 682 F.3d at 255. “Thus, the question of what punishments are constitutionally permissible is not different from the question of what punishments the Legislative Branch intended to be imposed. When Congress intended . . . to impose multiple punishments, imposition of such sentences does not violate the Constitution.” Albernaz v. United States, 450 U.S. 333, 344 (1981). When legislative intent is unclear, courts apply the test articulated in Blockburger v. United States, 284 U.S. 299 (1932).

         Here, Defendant alleges that the legislative history of 18 U.S.C. § 669, Theft from a Health Care Benefit Program, indicates that this statute alone should be used to prosecute health care fraud. (Doc. No. 84 at 1-3.) For this reason, Defendant asserts that the offense of Theft from a Program Receiving Federal Funds in Excess of $10, 000 under 18 U.S.C. § 666, and the offenses of Mail and Wire Fraud under 18 U.S.C. § 1341 and § 1343, should be dismissed. (Id.) According to the legislative history of 18 U.S.C. § 669, which establishes the offense of Theft from a Health Care Benefit Program, Congress sought to provide a clear and definitive means by which to prosecute health care fraud. (Doc. No. 84, Ex. A., H.R. Rep. No. 104-747, 104th Cong., 2nd Sess. (Aug. 2, 1996).) The House Report states that “[c]urrent Federal enforcement tools are inefficient and inadequate against increasingly sophisticated patterns of fraud and abuse. Health care fraud cases, prosecuted mainly under mail and wire fraud statutes, money laundering and false claims laws, are complex, costly and time-consuming.” (Id.) Congress passed 18 U.S.C. § 669 to provide a “stronger and more direct statutory authority to deter fraud and abuse against public and private health plans.” (Id.)

         Nowhere in the House Report, however, does Congress state that this criminal statute was meant to supersede or replace the use of existing criminal statutes to combat health care fraud. Consequently, the legislative history is unclear as to whether Congress sought in health care fraud cases to eliminate the use of 18 U.S.C. § 666, 18 U.S.C. § 1341, or 18 U.S.C. § 1343, in conjunction with 18 U.S.C. § 669 in the same prosecution. Because the legislative ...


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