Broward grand jury hears first witnesses in criminal probe of Broward Health

By Dan Christensen and Buddy Nevins, FloridaBulldog.org 

Broward State Attorney Michael Satz Photo: Tom Tracy, Florida Catholic

A Broward grand jury began hearing testimony Wednesday about alleged criminal conduct at long-troubled Broward Health, the taxpayer-supported public medical system for the northern two-thirds of the county.

A panel of 18 grand jurors were on hand to examine potential criminal violations of Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Law and state ethics laws by the seven-member commission appointed by Gov. Rick Scott that runs the health-care agency.

The grand jury may also take a broader look at Broward Health, which has been buffeted by allegations of mismanagement and insider dealing for years. Grand jurors have the power to recommend changes in the system’s governance and have done so with various governments in the past.

“I decided our office should focus on possible Sunshine Law violations and related matters that had come to our attention,” said Broward State Attorney Michael Satz.

Office spokesman Ron Ishoy indicated that grand jury testimony would reach into many areas of the public health-care system.

“We are in the midst of a wide-ranging investigation,” he said.

News of the county grand jury’s probe comes amid an ongoing federal grand jury’s look at suspicious purchasing practices at Broward Health. Florida Bulldog reported in February 2016 that the federal grand jury has subpoenaed Broward Health’s records about former procurement officer Brian Bravo and 16 companies, including MedAssets, a publicly traded, Georgia-based group purchasing organization.

‘No overlap’

Satz was reluctant to convene a grand jury on Broward Health last year because he felt that it might duplicate or get in the way of the federal investigation. On Tuesday, he indicated that was no longer an issue. “There continues to be good cooperation between the investigative agencies involved and no overlap,” Satz said.

Former Broward Health General Counsel Sam Goren entering the grand jury room on Wednesday. Photo: Florida Bulldog

Grand jury proceedings, both federal and state, are secret. Wednesday morning, however, subpoenaed witnesses began showing up outside the grand jury’s new home — Courtroom 10175 on the 10th floor of the new Broward County Courthouse Tower.

The kickoff witnesses were Broward Health’s former general counsel Sam Goren and ex-board chairman David Di Pietro. Goren, accompanied by his colleague attorney Jacob Horowitz, testified for an hour and 15 minutes. Di Pietro testified for nearly two and a half hours. Neither man would discuss his testimony nor disclose what matters he was asked about.

Appearing to testify in the afternoon were Pam Hatfield, senior executive secretary to Broward Health’s president/CEO, and former Broward Health Commissioner Maureen Canada.

Investigators led by Assistant State Attorney Tim Donnelly, chief of the office’s Public Corruption/Special Investigations unit, brought nine boxes of documents with them to the grand jury room. Accompanying Donnelly at yesterday’s proceedings were prosecutors Whitney MacKay and Chris Killoran.

Broward corruption prosecutor Tim Donnelly outside the grand jury room on Wednesday. Photo: Florida Bulldog

Broward Health is an independent special district whose legal name is the North Broward Hospital District. It operates four hospitals, including its flagship Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, and additional urgent care and outpatient centers.

The governor appoints a board of commissioners that runs the district and levies property taxes to help support its mission, which includes providing treatment for indigent patients. The board has seven seats, but two are currently unfilled. All five commissioners are Republicans appointed by Gov. Scott.

Di Pietro blows whistle

Di Pietro filed a federal whistleblower suit last year shortly after he quit the board. The lawsuit was unsealed late last week, and Florida Bulldog reported Monday that it contains a number of politically explosive allegations about insider influence, including kickbacks and “hush money” payments at Broward Health that reach up to the governor himself.

Former Broward Health chairman David Di Pietro exiting the grand jury room on Wednesday. Photo: Florida Bulldog

Prosecutors have fielded numerous complaints about the governance of the public-health system during the past 18 months. At least two of the complaints involve the controversy swirling around the hiring of Interim President/CEO Beverly Capasso.

One complaint alleges Capasso, who was a Broward Health commissioner at the time, violated Florida ethics laws when she voted to give herself her current job. Florida law on voting conflict states that “no county, municipal, or other local public officer shall vote in an official capacity upon any measure which would inure to his or her special private gain or loss.”

The CEO job pays Capasso $650,000 annually. A search for a permanent chief executive is underway.

Another allegation is that board members discussed hiring Capasso in private, thus breaking the Sunshine Law, which requires most public matters to be discussed in the open.

An abrupt hiring

She was hired suddenly as CEO during a May 8 Broward Health Commission meeting. Before the vote, fellow board members did little questioning of her background, her health care experience or how she would approach the job. Because of the lack of meaningful debate at the meeting when Capasso was hired, the move appeared preplanned.

After her hiring, information about Capasso’s background surfaced that was never publicly discussed before she was hired. The Sun-Sentinel reported that Capasso held a master’s degree from an unaccredited mail and online university that a federal investigator called a diploma mill during congressional testimony.

Broward Health Interim President/CEO Beverly Capasso talks with Commissioner Christopher Ure after Monday’s board meeting. Photo: Florida Bulldog

Gov. Scott appointed Capasso, a registered nurse whose experience included a stint as chief executive of Jackson Memorial Hospital, to Broward Health’s board in October 2016.

Another complaint filed with the State Attorney’s Office alleges that Broward Health Commissioner Christopher Ure used his position to get an investigator to threaten his mistress.

“I filed the complaint and went in to talk to Tim Donnelly about it. Donnelly told me they were going to hold a Grand Jury concerning Broward Health” but gave no timetable, community activist and blogger Dan Lewis said.

Lewis outlined his allegations in an Aug. 21 post on his Broward Health Blog.

WestonGuy954

“Christopher Ure and Jane Doe met online late in 2015.  He used ‘Guy Weston’ and ‘WestonGuy954@gmail.com’ as his online profile (clever, he lives in Weston and he’s a ‘guy’).  He also used an anonymous Google voice number 770-580-4009 to keep his communications secret,” Lewis wrote.

Lewis posted pictures that Ure allegedly texted the woman, including one he described as taken outside his daughter’s school play.

Dan Lewis

Late last year, Ure and the woman had a falling out.  She felt she was jilted and tried to contact Ure’s wife and Ure’s minister, Lewis wrote. Then one day she received a call from a private investigator trying to warn her off.

“As you know, um, our friend has a very important job and I, uh, look out after these guys so you can look it up,” the investigator said in a message that was recorded and given to Lewis.

The investigator worked for a law firm that in the past had sued Broward Health for malpractice.

Lewis complained to the State Attorney’s Office that Ure received “a favor” because he was a Broward Health commissioner involved in a lawsuit with the investigator’s employer. If proved, such a favor would constitute unlawful misuse of public office.

Ure did not return phone messages requesting comment.

Tools for change

Grand jury reports can be powerful tools for change, but their success has been mixed in Broward.

In 2009, grand jurors recommended tougher regulation of pain clinics that had proliferated in Broward, where 33 of the nation’s 50 leading dispensing physicians of Oxycodone were then located. The report helped bolster the argument that stricter laws were needed, and Tallahassee acted.

Repeated examinations of the Broward schools construction practices by local and state grand jurors failed to produce the same results.

In 1997, the grand jury blasted the Broward public schools for shoddy construction and overspending. But as a 2002 grand jury report noted, it changed nothing.

A 2015 report from the State Attorney’s Office again slammed the School Board for not following earlier grand jury recommendations, including those by a statewide grand jury.

U.S. judge cites ‘shameful’ FBI delays in making 9/11 records public

By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org 

Miami U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga

A Miami federal judge Tuesday excoriated the FBI for what she called its “shameful” delays in making public certain records about the bureau’s 9/11 Review Commission.

“It is distressing to see the length to which a private citizen must go” to obtain records under the Freedom of Information Act [FOIA], said U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga. “It’s shocking quite frankly.”

At the same time, however, the judge gave the government two weeks to file a further summary judgment motion explaining why it believes the case brought by Florida Bulldog’s parent company should be dismissed. The ruling put off for now an unusual FOIA trial that had been scheduled to begin next week.

“The judge has done an excellent job moving this difficult case forward irrespective of the FBI’s stall tactics,” said attorney Thomas Julin, a partner in the Miami office of the Gunster law firm who represents Florida Bulldog. “This short delay will not put the Bulldog off the scent.”

Assistant U .S. Attorney Carlos Raurell represents the government. He declined to comment.

Broward Bulldog Inc. sued the FBI and the Justice Department last June, looking for records about the secretive three-man 9/11 Review Commission, whose most prominent member was Reagan-era Attorney General Edwin Meese. The group, also known as the Meese Commission, was authorized by Congress to conduct an “external” inquiry into the FBI’s post-9/11 performance and to assess new evidence. The commissioners were selected by FBI Director James Comey and paid by the FBI.

The Meese Commission, which began its work in 2014, went out of business after issuing a 127-page report in March 2015. The citizen’s 9/11 Commission released its findings in 2004.

In a related case, Bulldog is suing the FBI in federal court in Fort Lauderdale seeking records from the FBI’s 2001-2003 investigation of Abdulaziz and Anoud al-Hijji, a Saudi couple living in Sarasota with ties to the kingdom’s royal family and apparent ties to the 9/11 hijackers. The al-Hijjis came to law enforcement’s attention after neighbors reported they’d abruptly moved out of their upscale home two weeks before the terrorist attacks, leaving behind their cars, clothes, furniture and food in the refrigerator.

U.S. District Judge William J. Zloch is reviewing more than 80,000 pages of classified 9/11 records produced by the FBI for his inspection and possible release.

The ‘many connections’ FBI report

One document the FBI did release six months after that initial FOIA case was filed in September 2012 was a copy of an April 16, 2002 report that said agents found “many connections” between the al-Hijjis and “individuals associated with the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001.” The couple’s name was blanked out, but discernible.

Abdulazziz al-Hijji in a photo taken when he lived in Sarasota

The report flatly contradicted prior statements by the FBI that agents had found no connection to the 9/11 plot. The FBI, however, repudiated its report in a briefing given to the Meese Commission on April 30, 2014.

A memorandum about the briefing says FBI Supervisory Special Agent Jacqueline Maguire called the 2002 report “a bad statement. It was overly speculative and there was no basis for the statement.” The Meese Commission report said the agent who wrote it was “unable” to explain to his superiors why he wrote it as he did. The FBI has not identified the report’s author, but he is former Fort Myers Special Agent Gregory Sheffield.

At Monday’s calendar call, attorney Julin said the Bulldog was prepared to proceed to trial next week while prosecutor Raurell argued the government needed a continuance in order to file additional court papers asking the judge to dismiss the case. Judge Altonaga gave Raurell two weeks to file a new motion for summary judgment. If summary judgment is not granted on all remaining issues, a trial date will be scheduled.

Julin contends the FBI had no basis to keep Meese Commission records secret.

“The FBI started this fight by claiming it found nothing in Sarasota when it quite obviously did. We’re trying to get records which show why the Meese Commission continued this charade,” he said. “Did the FBI agree not to investigate Saudis who supported the 9/11 hijackers? That is what we’re trying to find out.”

Altonaga’s order

On Monday, Judge Altonaga issued a 37-page order in which she addressed the government’s initial motion for summary judgment, filed Dec. 30, and issues about the appropriateness of FBI redactions laced through four previously released documents. The FBI has cited various exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act to justify those deletions, but the news organization objected to many of those redactions as improper.

In a nutshell, the judge ruled the FBI improperly veiled the names of FBI agents, the al-Hijjis and others in the records it has released by repeatedly citing two exemptions intended to shield information that could result in “an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

The ruling could prompt the FBI to restore those names and re-release those documents, or the bureau could choose to try to persuade the judge of its position at a future trial.

The FBI fared much better with Altonaga regarding its other cited exemptions.

Specifically, the judge ruled the bureau had properly asserted exemptions intended to protect national security, confidential informants, law enforcement records or techniques and procedures and inter-agency or intra-agency memos or letters. The ruling means the FBI is not required to make that information public.

Altonaga saw un-redacted copies of the documents. In her decision granting summary judgment in favor of the FBI on matters of national security, she cited legal precedent that courts “should defer to an agency’s decision to withhold information” about national security matters.

Judges “must recognize that the Executive departments responsible for national defense and foreign policy matters have unique insights into what adverse affects [sic] might occur as a result of public disclosure of a particular classified record,” the court papers say.

Miami federal judge denies FBI motion to postpone trial on secret 9-11 records

By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org 

Miami's Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. U.S. Courthouse

Miami’s Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. U.S. Courthouse

A Miami federal judge Thursday denied the FBI’s request to delay for 90 days a trial to decide whether certain secret records about 9/11 should be made public.

The trial before U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga remains on schedule for the week of March 6.

“The FBI had 21 months to produce the records.  There was no reason to allow further delay,” said attorney Thomas Julin, who represents the Florida Bulldog.

The nonprofit news site’s corporate parent, Broward Bulldog Inc., sued the Justice Department and the FBI in June after three of its Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests seeking records generated by the 9/11 Review Commission received no response from the FBI. The Meese Commission, as it also is known, was authorized by Congress to conduct an “external” review of the FBI’s response to the attacks and to evaluate new evidence. It issued its final report in March 2015.

The FBI had requested and obtained a 30-day extension to file various pretrial paperwork in the case on Nov. 29. But at Thursday’s hearing, the FBI’s lawyer, Miami Assistant U.S. Attorney Carlos Raurell, asked Judge Altonaga to postpone the case again – this time for 90 days.

Raurell explained the FBI has located more than 1,100 records “potentially responsive” to the Bulldog’s FOIA request, but that 60 percent of them contain information from 27 other government agencies. The FBI, he said, needed the extra time because less than half those agencies with “equities” in those records had responded to the FBI’s requests for comments needed to justify to the court their claims for secrecy.

Raurell did not identify those 27 government agencies.

“The FBI’s reasons for trying to slow the case were utterly unbelievable.  It made no sense that 27 other agencies had to be consulted,” Julin said in an interview.

Records of ‘paramount’ importance

In a motion filed Wednesday opposing further delay, Julin wrote, “The Bulldog contends the records at issue are of paramount national and international importance because they are expected to shed light on whether the FBI found evidence in 2001 and 2002 that Saudi Arabia supported the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, but withheld that evidence from Congressional and other investigators.”

The judge directed the government to file by Dec. 30 its motion for summary judgment on whatever issues it could. That would likely include providing an explanation for redactions it made in 220 pages of Meese Commission records provided to the Bulldog in November. The motion would ask the court to dismiss the case. Julin said the Bulldog would have two weeks to respond in opposition.

Julin told the judge that if a trial is held, one of the witnesses he likely would call is former Florida Sen. Bob Graham, a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee who co-chaired Congress’ Joint Inquiry into 9/11. Graham has been a leading advocate of more government transparency regarding 9/11.

Altonaga also told the government she might consider another summary judgment motion shortly before trial on other matters.

The release of the 220 pages resulted in three stories. The first reported FBI claims that its agents investigating 9/11 did not obtain security records from a Sarasota gated community that contained alleged evidence that 9/11 hijackers had visited the residence of a Saudi family with ties to the royal family. Another story reported that the FBI censored records to hide how much it paid the 9/11 Commission members, including former U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese.

Another document described a 2012 investigation of an apparent U.S. support network that aided two of the 9/11 hijackers – Saudis Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar – who with three other terrorists crashed an American Airlines passenger jet into the Pentagon.

The lawsuit is the second pending matter filed by Florida Bulldog that seeks access to 9/11 records. In 2012, the news organization sued after the FBI denied a FOIA request for records about its investigation of a Sarasota Saudi family with apparent ties to 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and other terrorists.

Six months after the lawsuit was filed, the FBI released a handful of documents that included an April 2002 FBI report that said the Sarasota Saudis had “many connections” to persons involved in 9/11. The Meese Commission later sought to discredit that report as “unsubstantiated,” but provided no explanation for that conclusion. It also refused to identify the agent who wrote the report or say whether he was disciplined for his possibly shoddy work.

In April 2014, Fort Lauderdale U.S. District Judge William J. Zloch ordered the FBI to produce 80,000 pages from its Tampa field office for his inspection. The judge’s review of those records continues.

Jack Nicklaus, partners pay $400K to settle charges they filled wetlands at golf club

By Francisco Alvarado, FloridaBulldog.org 

The Bear's Club golf course in Jupiter.

The Bear’s Club golf course in Jupiter.

Golf legend Jack Nicklaus has given up a legal battle over federal accusations that his companies violated the Clean Water Act by disturbing environmentally protected wetlands in The Bear’s Club, a private golf course community he built 17 years ago.

Last month, U.S. District Judge William P. Dimitrouleas signed off on a consent decree between the federal government and The Bear’s Club Founding Partners Ltd, four related companies and three of Nicklaus’ development partners to settle a lawsuit filed last October by the Department of Justice. The defendants are required to pay a $400,000 civil penalty and offset the environmental impact done to two patches of wetlands in The Bear’s Club 369-acre property that were filled.

Eugene Stearns, a Miami-based lawyer representing The Bear’s Club Founding Partners, told Florida Bulldog that his client did not admit to any wrongdoing. “The $400,000 is a fraction of what it would cost to litigate this case to its conclusion,” Stearns said. “It was a business decision, and The Bear’s Club believes it didn’t violate any federal law.”

South Florida U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said in a statement that the $400,000 penalty “sends a message to anyone who fails to abide by our nation’s environmental laws that they will be held accountable for their non-compliance.”

He added: “When wetlands are filled in violation of the Clean Water Act, the loss is felt not only today, but by all generations to come.”

In 1999, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued Nicklaus and his business partners Ivan Charles Frederickson and Robert Whitley a permit allowing them to fill certain wetlands in their massive Jupiter property for the purpose of building a residential golf community. However, the Corps also required The Bear’s Club to preserve certain wetlands in their natural state.

According to its web site, the 270-acre The Bear’s Club was founded in 1999 by Nicklaus and his wife, Barbara. Nicklaus is chairman of the board. Membership is by invitation only.

In the complaint, government attorneys accused The Bear’s Club and its developers of filling close to an acre of wetlands in 2010 without permission from the Corps. The prosecutors alleged it was done to relocate a tee box, improve golfing conditions on the club’s 15th hole and make room for the development of five residential lots. Nicklaus and company ignored the Corps’ denial to modify the original building permit, which included an easement agreement to set aside several acres as protected wetlands, the lawsuit alleged.

Stearns disputed the government’s interpretation of what the original 1999 permit allowed The Bear’s Club to do on the property. He said his client was allowed to make changes to conservation easements as long as he received approval from the South Florida Water Management District. Stearns said The Bear’s Club did not have to go back to the Corps.

“The Bear’s Club got state approval and paid state mitigation fees,” Stearns said. “Then the feds came along and were like, ‘Oh no, we didn’t approve it.’ ”

Stearns also criticized the Corps for going after The Bear’s Club for what he called “minor infractions” when the federal agency should be focused on minimizing the impact of the contaminated runoff water from Lake Okeechobee.

“Who is pumping waste into the Indian River every day?” Stearns said. “Yet, here we are talking about two tiny areas of a golf course that is the perfect marriage between the environment and private development. The Bear’s Club has preserved more wildlife and nature than it has taken away.”

Miami U.S. Attorney’s Office accused again of spying; A ‘mole’ in the defense camp?

By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org 

Defense lawyers Marc Nurik, left, and J. David Bogenschutz

Defense lawyers Marc Nurik, left, and J. David Bogenschutz

For the second time this summer, Miami federal prosecutors stand accused of spying on the defense – this time in the case of an alleged $28-million, international sweepstakes fraud.

As described in court papers, the “invasion of the defense camp” appears to have begun in February when one of four defendants in the case cut a secret plea deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and began working undercover.

The informant, John Leon of Wilton Manors, participated in defense team strategy sessions for three months as a government “mole,” obtaining documents and listening to privileged discussions about witnesses and other sensitive defense matters and reporting back to the government, the documents say.

The fallout: defense accusations that the case has been irretrievably “tainted” due to constitutional violations of the attorney-client privilege.

“For a period exceeding two months, Leon, acting as a government informant with the government’s acquiescence, invaded the defense camp where he learned critical defense strategies by actively participating in numerous meetings, after already accepting a government plea and agreeing to cooperate,” say court papers filed by attorneys Marc Nurik of West Palm Beach, J. David Bogenschutz of Fort Lauderdale and Marshall Dore Louis of Miami.

Assistant U.S. Attorney H. Ron Davidson, while acknowledging that defendant Leon became a covert “government cooperator,” told U.S. District Judge Darrin P. Gayles in a July 8 pleading that Leon “never shared privileged information with the United States, the United States never asked for privileged information and the defendant’s motion lacks any merit.”

The judge, however, has sided so far with the defense. On Aug. 3, after an initial hearing, he ordered the government to turn over to the defense all “rough notes” of interviews of Leon by Internal Revenue Service agents who helped build the government’s fraud case. The defense had sought the agents’ notes, contending the government had “carefully sanitized” memos of interviews with Leon produced to the defense.

‘The ends of justice’

The same day, Judge Gayles also granted a continuance in the case and reset the trial date for Nov. 28, saying “the ends of justice outweigh the interests” of a speedy trial.

What’s expected to follow this fall is a full-blown hearing on whether felony charges of mail fraud, money laundering and conspiracy should be dismissed against the remaining defendants – Matthew Pisoni, Marcus Pradel and Victor Ramirez – due to government misconduct.

“An evidentiary hearing is exactly what is required to determine how to resolve these blatant [constitutional] violations, and the appropriate sanction for these pervasive violations,” attorneys Nurik and Bogenschutz said in court papers.

U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer’s office declined Florida Bulldog’s request for comment.

In June, prominent Miami defense lawyer Howard Srebnick accused both the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of spying on the defense in a $55- million Medicare fraud case by illegally and obtaining copies of confidential defense documents. More specifically, it was alleged a government-approved copying service had surreptitiously provided agents with duplicates of documents culled by the defense team from 220 boxes of evidentiary records in preparation for trial.

The Florida Bulldog reported last month that those allegations of government misconduct dissipated weeks later when the U.S. Attorney’s Office abruptly gave all three defendants generous plea deals involving no prison time. The defendants had each faced lengthy jail terms if convicted.

The copying service, Imaging Universe, was fired. The U.S. Attorney’s Office conducted an internal inquiry, but declined to make public its findings. Srebnick withdrew his motion with the accusations after securing a deal for his client. Consequently, the judge never ruled on the merits.

The alleged scam

Pisoni was president of the now-defunct Mail Tree, Michael McKay, Spin Mail and other Florida companies that the government contends were used in the fraud. Pradel, Ramirez and Leon worked with him in the alleged scam.

The four were indicted together on May 7, 2015 for participating in a sweepstakes scheme that began in 2006. The indictment says victims were falsely notified by mail that they’d won a substantial prize, but needed to pay a fee of up to $50 to redeem their winnings.

Authorities have said the defendants collected more than $25 million from hundreds of thousands of victims in the U.S. and abroad, using shell companies and international bank accounts to lauder their loot.

Even before they were indicted, the four had learned they were under investigation “and circled the wagons in a Joint Defense Agreement,” the government said. A JDA is a contract in which defendants extend the attorney-client relationship among them to facilitate the sharing of privileged information.

But last winter, unknown to his fellow defendants, Leon and his Fort Lauderdale attorney, Omar F. Guerra Johansson, began plea negotiations that resulted in his Feb. 17 plea agreement with the government.

“His cooperation was kept covert because Leon was cooperating with the government against a non-charged defendant,” prosecutor Davidson wrote. “Moreover, the government specifically instructed Leon not to share privileged information.”

Leon’s plea deal became public on April 20 when the indictment against him was dropped and a single new conspiracy charge was filed. He’s now facing a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment. Before, like the others, he faced a maximum of 80 years in prison.

Accusations of spying by FBI, U.S. Attorney’s Office dissolve amid generous plea deals

By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org 

Defense attorney Howard Srebnick, left, and Assistant U.S. Attorney James V. Hayes

Defense attorney Howard Srebnick, left, and Assistant U.S. Attorney James V. Hayes

Weeks after being accused of spying on the defense in a $55-million Medicare fraud case, the Miami U.S. Attorney’s Office gave all three defendants generous plea deals that closed the case and made the misconduct accusations go away.

At the same time, the government quietly fired the Fort Lauderdale-based copying service at the center of the scandal. Imaging Universe had improperly supplied the government with duplicates of documents that defense lawyers cherry-picked out of 220 boxes of seized records while searching for evidence helpful to their clients.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office investigated the matter, but declined a request by FloridaBulldog.org to make public its findings.

Dr. Salo Schapiro, the 71-year-old former medical director of Biscayne Milieu Health Center, faced up to 100 years in prison and $55 million in liability when he was indicted for conspiracy and health care fraud in September 2014. But last June 20 – less than three weeks after the Florida Bulldog reported the story – prosecutors who once had trumpeted the case allowed psychiatrist Schapiro to plead guilty to a single count of making a false statement.

Schapiro’s punishment: a $10,000 fine. He continues his medical practice in Boca Raton, but no longer takes Medicare patients. His online biography does not mention his felony conviction.

Dr. Salo Schapiro

Dr. Salo Schapiro

Schapiro’s two co-defendants, indicted on similar charges, got similarly light treatment.

Nurse practitioner Marlene Cesar, 64, of Allentown, PA, pleaded guilty July 1 to stealing less than $1,000 in Medicare benefits and was fined $150. On July 28, 74-year-old mental health counselor Sonia Gallimore, who like Schapiro was from Broward, was placed on pretrial diversion for six months.

“The story is in the results,” said Schapiro’s Miami attorney, Howard Srebnick.

Srebnick and his associate, Rossana Arteaga-Gomez, raised the matter in court filings in late May. Their motion argued that the government had a practice of secretly obtaining copies of documents the defense had flagged as important and asserted it was not the action of “just one rogue [FBI] agent or prosecutor.” Rather, the motion said, it appeared to be “an office-wide policy” of both the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI that has gone on for “at least 10 years.”

Several days of hearings, open and closed, were held before Miami U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke. They culminated with Schapiro’s combined guilty plea and sentencing hearing June 20 on the reduced felony charge.

Credibility in question

After negotiating the plea deal for his client, attorney Srebnick withdrew his motion at the hearing. He said its allegations “were based solely on the statements and emails of the owner of the copy service, whose credibility, at a minimum, has come into question during this litigation.”

U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer issued this statement:

“When we learned of the copy service issue, our prosecutors immediately notified the defense lawyers.  Unintended circumstances can arise — the test is what you do when faced with such circumstances.  Here, rather than resolve the matter privately, we were completely open and transparent.  We urged the defense to air it in public.  Ultimately, the defense counsel acknowledged that they had no information the prosecutors had looked at any of the materials in question and that the prosecutors in the case acted appropriately and ethically.”

U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer

U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer

The owner of Imaging Universe is Ignacio E. Montero. He did not return several phone messages seeking comment.

The motion said Montero told attorney Arteaga-Gomez that he’d provided the U.S. Attorney’s Office “duplicate copies of the discovery documents selected by defense counsel in other cases” for the past 10 years.

Court papers alleged that Imaging Universe and Montero gave the government CDs containing duplicates of documents Schapiro’s defense team had culled from the 220 boxes of records agents had seized from Biscayne Milieu. The records were stored at an FBI warehouse in Miramar, where defense lawyers who wanted copies of such records were required to use Imaging Universe.

The government later acknowledged that Imaging Universe did supply the FBI with duplicate CDs of what it had copied for Schapiro’s defense team, but said the discs “were never requested by any agent, prosecutor or anyone else on the government’s behalf.”

No ‘pervasive’ spying

Assistant U.S. Attorney James V. Hayes was the lead prosecutor on the case. He has said in court papers that he was unaware of the duplicate CDs until an FBI agent disclosed their existence in April. He and co-counsel Lisa H. Miller, a Justice Department fraud attorney, said they immediately told “Montero to stop and began an internal inquiry.” They also said “no pervasive practice of receiving or recording defense discovery” was found.

Still, the government sent out notifications about what happened to lawyers for a number of unidentified defendants. Officials declined to say how many attorneys were notified.

Defense lawyers recently raised a similar issue “of government invasion of the defense camp” in at least one unrelated case involving an allegedly fraudulent sweepstakes scheme.

Prosecutor Hayes informed Srebnick on April 22 that FBI Agent Deanne Lindsey “had been surreptitiously receiving the CDs,” according to the defense motion. “Hayes proposed to immediately destroy the CDs,” but the lawyers instead asked that he give them to the defense, “which he did.”

“Covertly cloning defense counsel’s work-product to obtain a tactical advantage is nothing short of ‘shocking to the universal sense of justice,’ ” Srebnick and Arteaga-Gomez wrote.

Court records show that between June 8 and 16 U.S. District Judge Cooke held a series of open and closed hearings about the matter. Early on, the judge indicated she would make a ruling on the motion and even asked both sides what possible remedies were available should she find “pervasive” misconduct by the government.

But the judge never ruled on the merits of the defense motion. The matter became moot when Srebnick withdrew it after prosecutors offered Schapiro the plea deal and he accepted.

Fort Lauderdale federal grand jury subpoenas Broward Health’s purchasing records

By Dan Christensen and Buddy Nevins, FloridaBulldog.org gjpic

A Fort Lauderdale federal grand jury has slapped a subpoena on Broward Health, demanding records related to an ongoing FBI investigation focused on its purchasing practices, two knowledgeable sources have told FloridaBulldog.org.

The subpoena, served earlier this month, is said to seek information about former hospital district procurement officer Brian Bravo and 16 companies that do business with Broward Health. They include MedAssets, a Georgia-based group purchasing organization for the Broward system and other hospitals (NASDAQ: MDAS) with a market capitalization of $1.87 billion.

The subpoena seeks those records going back 10 years. The name of veteran Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil Karadbil is on the subpoena.

“I’m told the (administrative) staff is on shutdown, spending hours finding all these documents,” one source said.

Broward Health’s attorneys declined to release a copy of the federal grand jury subpoena, saying it is exempt from disclosure under Florida’s public records law.

Fort Lauderdale Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil Karadbil

Fort Lauderdale Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil Karadbil

Commissioner Joel Gustafson, asked if he was aware of the grand jury’s subpoena, said, “I don’t know if I’m allowed to answer that question. We’ve been admonished not to talk about any alleged investigation. If I find that I can, I’ll call you back.”

At the same time, FloridaBulldog.org has learned that top Broward Health staff – chief executive Kevin Fusco, general counsel Lynn Barrett and security director and ethics officer Carlos Perez-Irizarry – have phoned board members to privately update them on the status of the criminal investigation. The move avoided a public discussion of those details.

Commissioners were told that district administrators, criticized in Miami-based investigator Wayne Black’s email for having blocked the FBI’s investigation, are cooperating and turning over requested records, although no time frame for compliance was given. They were also told that general counsel Barrett has waived a claim of privilege to certain documents, facilitating their production.

One of the items turned over: Bravo’s laptop.

The decision by Fusco and the others to brief commissioners individually, thus possibly outside the Sunshine Law, is problematic.

Sunshine law

Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Manual, compiled by the attorney general’s office, cites a 1979 appeals court ruling that held a series of private meetings between a school board superintendent and individual members of the school board were subject to the Sunshine Law.

“While normally meetings between the school superintendent and an individual school board member would not be subject (to the Sunshine Law), these meetings were held in ‘rapid-fire succession’ in order to avoid a public airing of a controversial redistricting problem,” the manual says.

Joe Jacquot, a lawyer with the Foley Lardner law firm that represents Broward Health, said private updates for commissioners don’t violate the Sunshine Law. “As you say, staff appears to be updating individual board members in the normal course,” said Jacquot.

Broward Health officials have said Bravo was fired in December. On Sunday, hospital district board chairman David Di Pietro told This Week In South Florida that Bravo received an “unbelievable” severance package while he was under investigation by the FBI. The deal included a $17,000 payout for personal leave time, plus Bravo remains on Broward Health’s payroll until June.

Black, the private investigator hired last year to look into corruption allegations at Broward Health, told commissioners in a recent email that Bravo “was bragging about getting $75,000 BH (Broward Health) to pay his criminal defense attorney.”

Bravo did not respond to detailed requests for comment. Joel Hackney, chief executive officer of MedAssets, also did not respond to a detailed voicemail requesting comment.

Broward Health spends tens of millions of dollars on medical supplies every year. The district hired MedAssets in December 2007 in an effort to reduce the cost of supplies.

An undated company press release quotes Bravo: “MedAssets has been very effective in working with our leadership team, departments and physicians to review utilization and to implement strategies to reduce physician preference item supply costs while maintaining the quality of patient care.”

Supply costs can represent as much as 31 percent of a hospital’s cost per case, according to a 2006 academic study cited by the Milbank Quarterly, a healthcare journal.

“Gaining control of the hospital’s supply chain – the flow of products and associated services to meet the needs of the hospital and those who serve patients – presents special challenges,” the journal reported. “This is because the most expensive materials – up to 61 percent of the total supply expenditures – are for items about which physicians have a strong preference.”

U.S. settles case against Broward Health for millions less than it lost in alleged fraud


By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org 

Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale

Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale

The U.S. Justice Department settled a massive healthcare fraud case against Broward Health last month for millions of dollars less than the government lost as a result of the alleged fraud, records show.

Broward Health paid the government $69.5 million to end a vexing investigation begun in 2010 after Fort Lauderdale orthopedic surgeon Michael Reilly blew the whistle on improper financial relationships between the hospital system and its physicians dating back more than a decade. The scheme allegedly cheated American taxpayers, Medicare and Medicaid.

Documents released to FloridaBulldog.org by the North Broward Hospital District under Florida’s public records law add new perspective to the deal that Justice Department attorneys touted as an unqualified achievement.

The records show that even after significantly narrowing the scope of the alleged fraud to facilitate settlement, the government accepted $2.1 million less than its claimed losses, and $5.5 million less than the $75 million in losses that Broward Health itself had calculated.

Likewise, Broward Health was not required to reimburse the government for the costs of the five-year probe by attorneys and agents at both the Justice Department and the Department of Health and Human Services.

“The government’s goal is to change behavior,” said Patrick Burns, co-director of the Washington-based Taxpayers Against Fraud Education Fund. “If in fact you only recover what was stolen, then you have not sent a deterrent message, and when you have a recovery less than what was stolen, you have sent the opposite message.”

Mark Lavine, the South Florida assistant U.S. attorney who helped lead the case against Broward Health, said he was not authorized to respond to media inquiries. He forwarded a request for comment to the public information office, but no response was received before deadline.

Broward Health Chairman David Di Pietro said the $1.27 billion hospital system paid the settlement with funds drawn from its $800 million in reserves.

INCENTIVES TO SETTLE

The documents, including a 115-page transcript of a confidential Aug. 20 meeting between Broward Health’s seven-member board of commissioners and its lawyers, show that a favorable payout number wasn’t the only incentive for Broward Health to settle.

Without an agreement, Broward Health faced the chilling prospect of prolonged and embarrassing litigation with the government seeking excess of $500 million in actual and punitive damages under the False Claims Act. Other risks included a possible expansion of the investigation to include more doctors and exclusion from federal health care programs – the so-called corporate “death penalty.”

Broward Health's healthcare lawyers, Linda Baumann and D. Jacques Smith

Broward Health’s healthcare lawyers, Linda Baumann and D. Jacques Smith

“The vast majority of cases settle. They don’t want to run the risk of being kicked out of Medicare and Medicaid. Exclusion is just too big a threat,” Linda Baumann, a healthcare attorney with Washington’s Arent Fox law firm, told commissioners at the two-hour Aug. 20 meeting.

Commissioners, each appointed by Gov. Rick Scott, voted unanimously to settle that day after viewing a PowerPoint presentation outlining settlement talks and listening to Baumann’s colleague, attorney D. Jacques Smith, call the proposed $69.5 million penalty and a requirement that Broward Health establish a corporate integrity program, “very reasonable.”

The whistleblower investigation kicked off by Dr. Reilly’s False Claims Act lawsuit looked at alleged Medicare and Medicaid fraud that arose from overly generous contracts Broward Health gave to doctors who referred patients for tests and procedures. The federal Stark Law limits financial relationships hospitals may have with referring physicians.

In May 2011, federal agents subpoenaed 10 years of Broward Health’s records from 27 staff physicians. Over the next few years, the inquiry focused on nine doctors the Justice Department was “most interested in,” according to Smith.

Broward Health produced a total of 1.7 million documents. Included were internal emails that attorney Smith told commissioners “weren’t what Linda and I would call ‘best practices,’ okay?”

“Some of the documents we turned over, and some of the things we saw, frankly were troubling,” Smith said.

‘SMOKING GUNS’

But those weren’t Broward Health’s only problematic records. There were thousands of additional documents the government never saw because Broward Health’s lawyers claimed they were privileged due to attorney-client relationships or for other legal reasons.

If the case had continued, government investigators may have been able to get a look at those records. Here’s how attorney Baumann characterized them before the board: “You have documents that are on the privilege log that are not the greatest, but I really didn’t see a huge number of smoking guns.”

A page from the PowerPoint presentation shown to Broward Health's board of commissioners on Aug. 20.

A page from the PowerPoint presentation shown to Broward Health’s board of commissioners on Aug. 20.

The law firm’s PowerPoint presentation provides a breakout by physician of the losses they caused to the government and the liability that resulted for Broward Health. The top five: cardiologist Violeta McCormack, $30.1 million; pediatrician Hector Rodriquez-Cortes, $11.2 million; pediatrician Rudolph Roskos, $9.2 million; cardiologist Michael Chizner, $8.5 million; and hematologist Shazia Zafar, $5 million. Dr. Zafar now works for Memorial Healthcare.

The nine doctors faced no regulatory action or penalties as a result of their involvement in the allege fraud scheme. “The irony of the Stark Law is that all the penalties are directed at the organization and not the doctors,” Baumann explained to Broward Health’s board.

Broward Health doctors with contracts that paid them annual salaries in excess of a million dollars took pay cuts last year when their contracts were renegotiated to make them “commercially reasonable.” Still, a bad taste remained for some commissioners.

“So what do we say, though, when somebody says that Dr. Chizner cost us $8.5 million and is still making $860,000 a year?” asked board chairman Di Pietro.

“Well, you have to be very confident that your current contract is totally squeaky clean,” replied Baumann.

Will Broward Health seek to recover those lost millions by filing clawback lawsuits against its physicians?

“We have not formally considered that option, but likely no,” said Di Pietro, citing legal reasons.

NO ADMISSION OF WRONGDOING

Broward Health, which received $146.1 million in property taxes last year, admitted no wrongdoing in the board-approved settlement. Still, Di Pietro and several other commissioners expressed concern about public accountability – with Di Pietro noting for the record that physician contracts used to be handed out in secret by the board chair, the chief financial officer and the chief executive officer.

“Is there any responsible party still at the district on an executive level?” Di Pietro asked.

“Not that I’m aware of, said Baumann. “To me, the fault lay in an inadequate legal staff to be honest…You just didn’t have hardly any lawyers. And this is a huge organization.”

Meanwhile, Broward Health, a medical safety net for Broward County, faces the prospect of having to pay extra millions for additional misconduct outside the scope of the settlement.

For example, attorney Baumann told the board that a coding audit of Broward Health’s medical records, apparently done by the Department of Health and Human Services, found “a 53 percent error rate” and “no indication of follow up.”

Overpayments to Broward Health from federal healthcare programs now must be returned.

“You know, that’s a million or two. It’s relatively small,” Baumann told commissioners.

Baumann added that Broward Health also is liable for various failures to make required disclosures to the government under the federal Stark Law. “There is going to be money that has to be paid under the Stark self-disclosure,” she said, without elaborating.

Broward Health Chief Executive Officer Dr. Nabil El Sanadi and Di Pietro declined to comment on the coding audit or the district’s other outstanding liabilities saying they were unfamiliar with those matters.

Further, the lawyers warned, Broward Health could face having to pay Florida millions of dollars if state Attorney General Pam Bondi decides to sue under the Florida False Claims Act to recover the state’s Medicaid losses from the scheme.

The Justice Department discussed the case with Bondi’s office in June, but Broward Health has not heard back from the state.

“I don’t think it’s likely,” said Baumann. Still, she said, it’s possible if Florida needs “some extra money, because it’s a relatively easy way.”

Asked Tuesday about Attorney General Bondi’s intentions, spokesman Whitney Ray said, “We plan to review the settlement for any needed action.”

Powerful medicine: Broward Health offers nearly $70 million to settle federal fraud probe

By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org bhpowerful

Taxpayer-supported Broward Health offered Thursday to pay $69.5 million to settle a four-year-old federal investigation into allegations of massive Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

The proposed payout is on top of more than $10.2 million the North Broward Hospital District – Broward Health’s legal name – already has paid an out-of-state law firm for legal advice about how to deal with the probe.

Broward Health’s executive boardroom was packed with as many lawyers as commissioners when the unanimous vote was made to approve the offer. The vote followed a two-hour non-public meeting about the case between the seven-member commission and defense counsel.

Commissioners offered no public explanation for their decision or how, if the government accepts the offer, it might impact Broward Health’s operations.  The enormous offer, however, signaled a collective belief that federal agents and prosecutors have turned up substantial evidence of wrongdoing that could prove much more costly if the matter is not settled soon.

Official silence followed an announcement, as the 7-0 vote was taken, that Justice Department attorneys had instructed Broward Health to make no public comments until the case is concluded. Citing the government’s muzzle, Broward Health president and chief executive Dr. Nabil El Sanadi, hired in December, and new in-house general counsel Lynn Barrett, hired last month, declined to comment.

The investigation surfaced in May 2011 when U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agents subpoenaed Broward Health records about the public healthcare system’s connections to more than two dozen doctors, including medical directors at Broward Health’s lucrative orthopedic, sports medicine and cardiology practices.

Millions of documents were ultimately turned over.

Details of the government’s case against Broward Health, the county’s largest provider of healthcare services, remain largely secret.

A WHISTLEBLOWER IN THE BACKGROUND

But the investigation and subpoena are known to stem from a complaint brought by an unidentified whistleblower. Private individuals with knowledge of fraud against the government can blow the whistle, and seek a reward of up to 25 percent of whatever the government recovers, by filing a lawsuit under the federal False Claims Act.

The person who filed the suit is called a relator. If the government accepts Broward Health’s settlement, the relator could collect a reward of up to $17 million.

Such lawsuits are initially kept sealed to allow the Department of Justice time to investigate and decide whether to help prosecute the lawsuit. If the settlement offer is accepted, and a judge approves it, the case is unsealed and further details become public.

Leading Broward Health’s defense are False Claims Act specialists Linda Baumann and D. Jacques Smith, of the Washington, D.C. office of the Arent Fox law firm. Baumann attended Thurday’s meeting. Smith participated by phone.

Baumann is also an expert regarding a pair of other laws that records show figure prominently in the Broward Health case: the federal Stark Law and the Anti-Kickback Statute.

The Stark Law generally prohibits doctors from referring Medicare or Medicaid patients to hospitals with which they have a financial relationship. Likewise, it forbids hospitals from submitting claims from prohibited referrals. Violators face stiff civil penalties.

The Anti-Kickback statute forbids offering, paying or soliciting or receiving anything of value to induce or reward referrals or generate federal healthcare program business. Criminal violators face up to five years in prison and a $25,000 fine for each violation.

If its settlement offer is accepted, Broward Health would become the second large hospital system in Florida in recent years to pay big for having improper financial relationships with its physicians. Last year, the Halifax Hospital Medical Center and Halifax Staffing in Daytona Beach agreed to pay $85 million to resolve allegations they submitted Medicare claims that violated the Stark Law’s self-referral rules.

On Thursday, Broward Health’s commissioners also authorized El Sanadi to enter into any integrity agreement that might be required by the government to close the deal.

Whether or not the government accepts the settlement offer, however, the investigation has already had a substantial impact on the district’s business practices.

For example, last year the governing board approved a new compensation scheme that seeks to make its physician compensation practices “commercially reasonable.”

More than a dozen Broward Health doctors have signed agreements under the new rules intended to assure compensation based on “fair market value.” One of those doctors who took a substantial pay cut was Michael A. Chizner, chief medical director of Broward Health’s Heart Center of Excellence.

The district, whose flagship facility is Fort Lauderdale’s Broward Health Medical Center, is the medical safety net providing services regardless of the ability to pay for the northern two-thirds of the county.

U.S. judge asked to okay deposition of FBI agent in Sarasota Saudi probe

By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org 

FBI Director James Comey

FBI Director James Comey

The FBI should be ordered to publicly identify and make available for questioning under oath the special agent it says authored a “wholly unsubstantiated” 2002 report that connected a Sarasota Saudi family to 9/11 terrorists, newly filed court papers say.

The 9/11 Review Commission cited without explanation the FBI’s controversial assertion in a report last month that sought to discredit the 2002 document and damage the credibility of the unnamed agent. The commission members were paid by the FBI and chosen by FBI Director James Comey.

The document, parts of which were redacted citing national security, was released to FloridaBulldog.org in March 2013 amid the news organization’s ongoing Freedom of Information lawsuit against the FBI. The document said the FBI’s investigation of the Saudi family “revealed many connections” between the family “and individuals associated with the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001.”

On Wednesday, the Bulldog’s attorneys asked Fort Lauderdale U.S. District Court Judge William J. Zloch to allow them to depose the FBI agent and to inspect documents cited in the 9/11 Review Commission’s report concerning the FBI’s once-secret investigation of the Sarasota Saudis.

“In light of the central importance of this agent and the lack of any independent, direct examination of the agent about the findings,” wrote attorneys Thomas Julin and Paulo Lima, “a deposition of the author of the (2002 FBI report) and access to the relevant records of the 9/11 Review Commission will shed significant light.”

Judge Zloch was asked to intervene after Miami Assistant U.S. Attorney Dexter Lee informed the attorneys that the government opposed their request to depose the agent. Lee likewise rejected a request for access to the Review Commission’s supporting documents.

The 9/11 Review Commission was authorized by Congress to conduct an “external review” of the FBI’s post-9/11 performance and to assess new evidence in the case. It held no public hearings and relied heavily on the FBI for information, staffing and administration.

One subchapter of the commission’s report addressed FloridaBulldog.org’s story about the Sarasota Saudis, who sources and documents say abruptly moved out of their home in the gated community of Prestancia about two weeks before 9/11, leaving behind their cars, furniture, a refrigerator full of food, clothes and other goods.

While ignoring a variety of new information reported by the Bulldog – like interview-based stories about how gatehouse security records showed the home was visited by vehicles used by hijackers and another about a 2004 law enforcement report tying the home’s occupant, Abdulaziz al-Hijji, to al Qaeda figure Adnan Shukrijumah – the commission’s report focused on the credibility of the 2002 report, saying the FBI called it “poorly written and wholly unsubstantiated.”

“When questioned later by others in the FBI, the special agent who wrote (it) was unable to provide any basis for the contents of the document or explain why he wrote it as he did,” the report says.

AGENT INSTRUCTED NOT TO TALK?

According to attorneys Julin and Lima, however, the failure of the Review Commission’s report to identify either the agent or the FBI personnel who questioned him or to explain the FBI’s conclusion that the 2002 report is fatally flawed, is problematic.

“These omissions leave open the possibility that the author 0f (the report) had been instructed by the FBI or by other agencies not to explain why he wrote the document as he did, as well as the possibility the agent simply forgot why he wrote it as he did. The latter possibility seems implausible, however, in light of the startling substance of the document,” they told Judge Zloch.

A year ago, noting that previous records searches were inadequate, Zloch ordered the FBI to conduct a more thorough search for records responsive to FloridaBulldog.org’s FOIA request. Ultimately, the FBI turned over more than 80,000 pages housed in its Tampa field office. Zloch is reviewing those records in order to decide what may be publicly released.

The government provided the judge with three CD-ROMs containing scanned copies of all 80,000 pages. In response to the judge’s specific instructions, the FBI also compiled 27 boxes of paper documents and planned to provide them in sets of four boxes – the maximum capacity of a high-security safe the FBI had installed in the judge’s chambers.

According to prosecutor Lee, the government delivered the first four boxes on May 1, 2014. “I have not received further directions from the court to deliver additional boxes,” Lee wrote in an email.

Thus, it’s unclear how far along Judge Zloch is in evaluating the crush of documents, all of which have been labeled “classified” by the FBI.

Attorneys Julin and Lima requested a status conference with the judge and suggested Zloch consider appointing a special master, or them, to assist in completing the document review.

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