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Physician Convicted for Misappropriating Approximately $250,000 from COVID-19 Relief Programs

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A federal jury convicted a Colorado physician on Friday for misappropriating approximately $250,000 from two separate COVID-19 relief programs.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Dr. Francis F. Joseph, 57, of Highlands Ranch, received government funds for COVID-19 relief from the Accelerated and Advance Payment Program and the Paycheck Protection Program. Each program was designed to provide emergency financial assistance to medical providers and small businesses who were suffering the economic effects resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. In all, Joseph received approximately $250,000 from these funds and fraudulently used the money to pay for his own personal expenses, and not in accordance with the terms of the relief programs. 

Joseph was convicted in the District of Colorado of theft in connection with healthcare and wire fraud. The jury acquitted Joseph of theft of government property related to a separate Covid-relief payment.  He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on the wire-fraud count. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Special Agent in Charge Curt Muller of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Kansas City Region; and Special Agent in Charge Weston King of the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General (SBA-OIG), Western Region made the announcement.

The HHS-OIG and SBA-OIG investigated the case.

Trial Attorneys Jennifer Bilinkas and John J. Liolos of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.

The Fraud Section leads the Criminal Division’s efforts to combat fraud related to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly with respect to the resources made available by Congress through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for programs including the Paycheck Protection Program, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, and the Provider Relief Fund. Since the CARES Act passed, Fraud Section attorneys have prosecuted more than 200 defendants in more than 130 criminal cases related to CARES Act programs and funds. The Fraud Section has also seized more than $80 million in cash proceeds derived from CARES Act-related fraud schemes, as well as numerous real estate properties and luxury items purchased with such proceeds. More information can be found at https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/cares-act-fraud.

In May 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.

Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.

Official news published at https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/physician-convicted-misappropriating-approximately-250000-covid-19-relief-programs

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