A GOP lawmaker is railing at the Biden Justice Department over a reported decision to put a man whose sentence was commuted by then-President Donald Trump back on trial
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) said during a House hearing earlier this week that it is a “travesty of justice” for the department to retry former healthcare executive Philip Esformes, according to The Epoch Times.
Esformes was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2019 after being convicted in a healthcare fraud scheme.
In December 2020, then-President Donald Trump granted a commutation to Esformes, resulting in his release after having served his time in prison since his arrest in 2016. However, Trump did not issue a pardon to Esformes for several unresolved counts that were left undecided by the jury. Additionally, Esformes remained obligated to pay $5 million in restitution and adhere to a three-year period of supervised release, the outlet reported.
But after his release and despite the commutation, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) decided it would retry Esformes on the hung counts, an unusual move that was met with disapproval by legal experts,” The Epoch Times noted.
The DOJ described the Esformes prosecution as the “largest health care fraud scheme ever charged” by the agency.
Federal prosecutors claim that Esformes led an “extensive health care fraud conspiracy” between January 1998 and July 2016 linked to his chain of assisted living skilled nursing facilities. Patients were moved into his facilities and then “often failed to receive appropriate medical services or received medically unnecessary services billed to Medicare and Medicaid,” according to the DOJ.
According to witness testimonies, numerous facilities were reported to have been in poor condition. Esformes attempted to conceal these conditions by bribing state officials in Florida, as indicated in a case summary available on the Law & Crime website.
The department found that Esformes “personally benefited from the fraud” by about $37 million. He then used “criminal proceeds to make a series of extravagant purchases, including luxury automobiles and a $360,000 watch,” and also bribed a University of Pennsylvania basketball coach who managed to get Esformes’ son admitted to the Ivy League college.
In April 2019, a jury convicted Esformes on multiple charges, including fraud, conspiracy to commit bribery, money laundering, and obstruction of justice. However, the jury was unable to reach a verdict on several other counts. These unresolved counts included charges of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, federal program bribery, and other offenses associated with healthcare fraud, the outlet reported.
U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola, an Obama appointee, sentenced Esformes later that year, according to the DOJ’s summary.
Biggs wrote that while the Department of Justice contended that Esformes’s actions resulted in a $1.4 billion loss to the government, the jury determined that the actual losses incurred by the government were less than $200,000.
In February, Biggs sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, expressing his concerns and seeking an update on the case where allegations of prosecutorial misconduct have been raised.
“To rectify the role of the prosecutorial misconduct … President Trump commuted his sentence to time served, based in part on the recommendations of former U.S. Attorneys-General Edwin Meese and Michael Mukasey, and former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson,” the congressman added.
“For years, the DOJ has unjustly and unlawfully targeted its political opponents,” the letter said, noting that the case “highlights what most Americans already know: Our nation has a two-tier justice system and it does not serve the American people fairly.”
Ignoring “clemencies granted by President Trump” is “a reckless move that is contrary to American history and further indicates how weaponized the DOJ has become.”
“Mr. Esformes has already served time and has been publicly humiliated. Re-prosecuting a case that has already been commuted by a former U.S. president is unprecedented and would set a dangerous path forward. In fact, a re-prosecution would permit virtually all presidential grants of clemency to be overturned—undermining this constitutional authority.”
“Attorney General Garland cannot continue down this unprecedented path that turns our nation into a Banana Republic,” Biggs wrote.