President Trump commutes sentence of Philip Esformes, mastermind behind Penn men’s basketball bribery case

The tail end of Tuesday afternoon’s statement on Executive Grants of Clemency from outgoing President Donald Trump brought news that caught the interest of Ivy hoops fans.  Philip Esformes, the father who bribed former Penn men’s basketball coach Jerome Allen to get his son, Morris, onto the recruited athlete list for the fall of 2015, had his 20-year prison sentence for Medicare insurance fraud commuted.

According to the statement, the commutation was supported by two former attorneys general, Edwin Meese (1985-1988) and Michael Mukasey (2007-2009). Meese was also joined by former attorneys general John Ashcroft (2001-2005) and Alberto Gonzalez (2005-2007), as well as Whitewater Special Counsel and former Baylor President Ken Starr, in supporting Esformes’s appeal of his conviction due to “prosecutorial misconduct related to violating attorney-client privilege.”

Esformes did not appear to have any political relationship to the president, according to reporting from the Miami Herald. While he never wrote a check to the current president, he and his wife gave $100,000 combined in 2012 to support President Barack Obama’s reelection. His wife also reportedly gave $17,600 in 2010 to support the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. That same year, Philip Esformes, Inc. reportedly gave $10,000 to the Florida Democratic Party.

Esformes was found to have bribed physicians to admit patients to his extensive network of assisted living and skilled nursing facilities. He then moved patients through these facilities where they failed to receive proper medical services or received medically unnecessary services billed to Medicare and Medicaid.

All told, Esformes’s plan provided him with $1.3 billion from Medicare and Medicaid.

“The illicit road Esformes was found to have taken to satisfy his greediness led to millions in fraudulent health care claims, the largest amount ever charged by the Department of Justice,” Deputy Special Agent in Charge Denise M. Stemen of the FBI’s Miami Field Office told the Department of Justice’s press department.  “Along that road, Esformes cycled patients through his facilities in poor condition where they received inadequate or unnecessary treatment, then improperly billed Medicare and Medicaid.  Taking his despicable conduct further, he bribed doctors and regulators to advance his criminal conduct and even bribed a college official in exchange for gaining admission for his son to that university.”

Following a two-month federal trial in the spring of 2019, in which Jerome Allen served as a key witness, Esformes was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, two counts of receipt of kickbacks in connection with a federal health care program, four counts of payment of kickbacks in connection with a federal health care program, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, nine counts of money laundering, two counts of conspiracy to commit federal program bribery and one count of obstruction of justice.

In November 2019, Esformes was additionally instructed to pay $5 million to the Medicare program for incurred losses, $39 million to the United States government as punishment for his crimes, and $617,000 for the governments cost of his incarceration.

According to the White House statement, the commutation does not affect the restitution or the three years of supervised release.

Ivy Hoops Online attempted to contact Allen for a comment on Tuesday evening but received no response.

The Associated Press reported that Esformes’s lawyer, Howard Srebnick, provided a statement that the comments from the White House demonstrate “that the president was deeply disturbed by the prosecutors’ invasion of the attorney-client privilege.”

“In a perfect world, a commutation would be the result of a thoughtful, apolitical process intended to offset a grave injustice,” former federal prosecutor Ben Curtis told the Miami Herald.  “Did that happen here? Seeing this decision today and knowing the history of health care fraud in South Florida, it’s tough not to become cynical about the justice system.”

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