A frequent question we receive from clients is: how do I know whether I am under government investigation? The short answer is: you may not know whether you are under investigation and, if you do know you are under investigation, the government may already be a couple steps ahead.
By the time you learn of a health care fraud investigation, government investigators have typically been working on the investigation for a significant amount of time. While each investigation has its own unique facts and circumstances, as a general rule, government investigators and the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) typically will take “covert” steps to gather information before taking any steps in public. As part of its “covert” investigation, the government will typically analyze data and review whether there are any historic information gathered from other investigations. Government investigators then may seek to obtain information without a target or subject becoming aware they are of interest.
In terms of tools available, the DOJ will frequently use criminal, civil, and administrative resources in a coordinated operation. Investigators will often utilize both criminal tools (search warrants, grand jury subpoenas, HIPAA subpoenas, and wire taps) as well as civil tools (civil investigative demands (“CID”), administrative subpoenas, and inspection warrants). Which particular tools are utilized in a given case will depend on the facts of the case. Fraud investigators frequently build their cases with documents – emails, text messages, and business records. Government investigators can obtain these types of documents “covertly” through email search warrants, assuming they can convince a federal judge “probable cause” exists to authorize a search warrant. Probable cause exists when there is a “reasonable amount of suspicion, supported by circumstances sufficiently strong to justify a prudent and cautious person’s belief that certain facts are probably true.”
When investigators approach targets, subjects, or witnesses, they will have used these tools to obtain documents, medical records, emails, text messages, and sometimes even recorded conversations. If you are approached by law enforcement, even if the circumstances seem as if the focus is elsewhere, you need to be aware that the government may already have used one of the many tools available to gather large amounts of information.
The attorneys at Griffin Durham Tanner & Clarkson are former federal prosecutors who represent clients in connection with DOJ investigations. If you need assistance with such a matter, please contact us today.