OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
The Biden administration has lost yet another case before the U.S. Supreme Court in a rare unanimous decision.
Justices ruled 9-0 last week to limit “the reach of the federal Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act, unanimously rebuffing the Biden administration’s efforts to prosecute a man already convicted of Medicaid fraud with a separate charge of aggravated identity theft arising out of the same fraud case,” The Epoch Times reported.
The ruling, Dubin v. United States, was authored by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote a concurring opinion.
The Epoch Times noted further:
The Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act mandates a two-year prison sentence for violations.
When President George W. Bush signed the law in 2004, he said it established the federal “offense of aggravated identity theft” to ensure that someone convicted of that crime would receive jail time “for stealing a person’s good name.”
“These punishments will come on top of any punishment for crimes that proceed from identity theft,” Bush said then, adding it “raises the standard of conduct for people who have access to personal records through their work at banks, government agencies, insurance companies, and other storehouses of financial data.”
However, the Supreme Court rejected the argument put forth by the U.S. Department of Justice that petitioner David Fox Dubin was automatically guilty under the act due to the inclusion of the patient’s Medicaid reimbursement number as a “means of identification” on a fraudulent Medicaid billing form.
Dubin held the position of managing partner at PARTS, a company based in Austin, Texas, which was established by his father, licensed psychologist William Dubin. Both individuals were convicted by a U.S. district court for their involvement in a scheme to defraud the Medicaid program in the Lone Star State.
Medicaid is a program that operates jointly at the federal and state levels, catering to individuals of all ages who have limited income. The program’s specifics may differ from state to state, as state and local governments administer it in accordance with federal guidelines. Each state has the authority to establish its own eligibility criteria and determine the range of services provided under the program.
Constrained by the precedent set by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, the U.S. district court upheld Dubin’s conviction for aggravated identity theft, despite recognizing that the central focus of the case was fraudulent billing rather than identity theft. In March 2022, a divided 5th Circuit affirmed the conviction, even though it acknowledged that, per the government’s interpretation of the act, “the elements of [the] offense are not captured or even fairly described by the words ‘identity theft.’”
Jeffrey L. Fisher, a professor at Stanford Law School and Dubin’s attorney, said he was satisfied with the ruling.
“We’re grateful for the Court’s decision for Mr. Dubin’s sake and are pleased in general that the Court has reined in the prosecutorial overreaching the statute allowed,” he told The Epoch Times.
The case goes back to 2013, when Dubin filed a claim with Medicaid for $540 for services provided to someone identified as Patient L. The government didn’t dispute that the psychological examination practice treated the patient or had the authority to use the patient’s name in the billing process, according to Dubin’s petition (pdf) that was filed with the Supreme Court in June 2022.
“Instead, the government’s theory was that [the] petitioner overbilled Medicaid for the services provided,” which was enough to be convicted of health care fraud, the petition said.
“But the government was not content with that conviction. It also indicted [the] petitioner for aggravated identity theft,” the petition added. The Biden administration’s position was that Dubin was in violation of the ID theft statute because he placed Patient L’s “identifying information on the fraudulent Medicaid claim form.”