MIAMI – President Donald Trump has commuted the 20-year prison sentence imposed on a Miami Beach businessman in a $1 billion health care fraud case, one of the nation’s largest.
The president's action for 52-year-old Philip Esformes was among a group of pardons and commutations announced Tuesday night.
A White House statement said a key reason for Esformes' commutation were allegations of prosecutorial misconduct involving seizure of office records that surfaced before trial. The Miami Herald reported that Esformes never wrote a check to Trump or had any other political relationship.
The statement “demonstrates that the president was deeply disturbed by the prosecutors' invasion of the attorney-client privilege,” said Howard Srebnick, one of Esformes' attorneys.
Esformes was convicted in April 2019 of most of the 26 charges brought against him, including bribery and money laundering. But jurors did not reach a verdict on the main count of conspiracy to defraud the Medicare program.
The case involved a network of nursing homes and assisted living facilities Esformes operated in South Florida. The bribes and kickbacks were paid to doctors and administrators so they would refer patients to his businesses.
At sentencing, U.S. District Judge Robert Scola called the scheme “unmatched in our community, if not our country.”
Esformes still has to pay $44 million in restitution to the Medicare program. Trump's commutation did not affect that part of his sentence.
Esformes' commutation was supported by a number of top former federal legal officials, including former U.S. Attorneys General Edwin Meese and Michael Mukasey. Several others were backing Esformes' appeal of his conviction.
Trial testimony also showed that Esformes paid bribes to a former University of Pennsylvania basketball coach to get his son into the school. That coach, Jerome Allen, pleaded guilty to accepting bribes and was sentenced to four years' probation. He is now an assistant with the Boston Celtics.
Esformes’ defense insisted that patients at his facilities received the care they needed through the Medicare and Medicaid programs.