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United States v. Crinel

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

April 13, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
LISA CRINEL, ET AL

ORDER AND REASONS

MICHAEL B. NORTH, Magistrate Judge.

Before the Court is the Motion to Compel the Government to Respond to Discovery Related to Defendants' Equal Protection Claim, filed by Defendants, Lisa Crinel ("Crinel") and PCAH, Inc. ("Abide") (collectively "Defendants"). (Rec. doc. 33). Defendants filed a supplemental memorandum in support of that motion (rec. doc. 39) and the government has filed an opposition memorandum. (Rec. doc. 75). On April 8, 2015, the Court heard oral argument on the motion. (Rec. doc. 165). Having considered the pleadings and the evidence and law cited therein, as well as the parties' arguments at the hearing, the Court finds that the motion should be denied.BACKGROUND

On March 25, 2014, various financial accounts in the names of Crinel, Abide and Wilneisha Jakes ("Jakes") were seized by the government pursuant to seizure warrants following a finding of probable cause that the assets were traceable to a specified unlawful activity, namely, health care fraud. On that same date, several search warrants were served on four locations, including that of Abide.

On March 12, 2015, Crinel, Abide and Jakes, along with 18 other individuals, were indicted by a grand jury on numerous counts alleging health care fraud and conspiracies to commit health care fraud and to pay and receive illegal remunerations. The forfeiture of the assets seized on March 25, 2014, along with additional assets and real estate, were included in the forfeiture section of the indictment. (Rec. doc. 1).

On March 13, 2015, Crinel and Abide filed a motion to suppress evidence on the grounds that the search and seizure of her assets violated the equal protection clause, and requested the return of property and assets seized. (Rec. doc. 26-1). Three days later, counsel for Crinel and Abide sent the government a four-page letter requesting certain discovery, including discovery related to Crinel's equal protection claim, including a request for discovery connected to the matter of United States v. Morad, No. 13-CR-101 (E.D. La.) ("Morad"). (Rec. doc. 33-2 at 1-4). Germane to the present motion, Crinel requested the following:

(2) With respect to our pending claim for equal protection violations in this matter, we also ask for disclosure of the following information:
(1) A list of all Medicare fraud cases in the last 10 years where the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District of Louisiana has seized personal financial assets of a white American citizen prior to that citizen being indicted and a description of the assets seized;
(2) A list of all Medicare fraud cases in the last 10 years, where the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District of Louisiana has seized personal financial assets of a black American citizen prior to that citizen being indicted and a description of the assets seized;
(3) A list of all Medicare fraud cases in the last 10 years, whe re the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District of Louisiana has seized personal financial assets of an American citizen of foreign descent and a description of the assets seized....

(Id.). [1]

The government responded to Crinel's discovery request by letter dated March 18, 2015, addressing the various items requested and agreeing to provide much of the material requested, save that regarding Crinel's equal protection claim quoted above. (Id. at 8-14). Specifically, with respect to Crinel's request for 10 years of statistical information regarding pre-indictment asset seizures in health care related cases in the Eastern District of Louisiana, the Government stated:

You listed seven items "with respect to [your] pending claims for equal protection violations." You have the burden of providing a colorable basis for believing that others similarly situated have not been prosecuted in order to obtain the requested discovery. As you have been informed on at least two different occasions, your law partner, Walter Becker, represented a non-African American individual in a health care prosecution, Artem Gasparyan, who, on the day search warrants were executed, had his bank account seized and he and his wife's residence included as a forfeiture. In fact, on April 29, 2011, multiple bank accounts from five individuals and three companies owned by those individuals were seized. All of these individuals, "similarly situated" to your client, were not African American.

(Id. )

The next day, March 19, 2015, Crinel and Abide filed the instant motion to compel, seeking the disputed statistical information to support their then-pending motion to suppress. (Rec. doc. 33). The motion to compel argues that Crinel and Abide have made out a colorable claim for an equal protection violation sufficient to justify their discovery requests in that: (1) they had demonstrated that a single "non-minority defendant" in the above-referenced Morad matter had not been subjected to pre-indictment seizure, while Crinel, an African-American female, had had her assets seized pre-indictment and (2) the defendant referenced in the government's response who had had his assets seized preindictment (Artem Gasparyan) was "a minority (an Armenian whom the Court noted had questionable immigration status)" such that his asset seizure, along with that of Crinel's, demonstrate "a disturbing trend in this federal district of invoking civil seizure authority against minorities in Medicare fraud cases while giving non-minorities a pass." (Id. at 2). Crinel and Abide later supplemented their motion to call to the Court's attention the preindictment seizure of assets of another female African-American ...


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