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An eye-opening fraud sentence, even by Texas standards

This sentence outcome was flatly notable, even in a state where people are accustomed to seeing some of the nation's most stringent incarceration outcomes handed down by state and federal judges.

In fact, the unwelcome pronouncement directed recently at the owner and ex-director of a Houston home health enterprise yielded penalties that one media report notes were "unusually high even for Texas and its reputation for handing out tough sentences."

In fact, the details regarding the defendant's sentencing arguably seem at first blush to be a misprint.

And here is why: Prior to the 53-year-old woman being sentenced late last month, the nation's harshest-ever prison term handed down to a defendant in a health care fraud case was 50 years. The principal wrongdoer in that matter reportedly oversaw a Medicare fraud scheme with operations in excess of $200 million.

Conversely, the fraud allegedly engineered by the Texas defendant was pegged at around $13 million. Federal prosecutors provided the judge with a sentencing recommendation of 35 years behind bars.

The result: the imposition of a 75-year sentence, which one ex-prosecutor stated "makes no sense at all."

What particularly baffles -- and bothers -- many case commentators is the woman's personal health status. She was recently diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer, an acutely advanced form of that ailment. Reportedly, the cancer is spreading.

Additionally, the woman is the mother of young twins.

"I am not a heartless person," noted the judge at the defendant's sentence hearing, adding that, "It's just the way the system works."

The case is both cautionary and instructive, and reasonably points to the need for any individual accused of fraud-related misconduct relevant to health care to secure the assistance of a proven attorney well versed in defending against federal criminal charges.

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