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Penal Code 550

Attorney for Penal Code 550

Daniel Horowitz has recently obtained a dismissal of Penal Code section 550 charges in Orange County, a dismissal of Workers Compensation fraud charges in Tehama County and he successfully defended Dr. Wilmer Origel D.C. at a landmark medical fraud trial in Stockton, California.  The prosecutors threw a myriad of invented and politically motivated charges at Dr. Origel.  He later sued the insurance companies who brought these fraudulent charges.  Daniel won a major jury trial victory for Dr. Sohila Bodner in Hayward, California and Dr. Gary Martinovsky who was investigated relating to that case successfully sued the insurance companies who launched this investigation.  

If you are facing insurance fraud charges under Penal Code section 550 or other code sections, Daniel Horowitz is your first choice as your defense lawyer.

PENAL CODE Section 550 (Insurance Fraud)

Penal Code section 550 is the insurance fraud statute that prosecutors use whenever a specific fraud statute does not exist.  It is a “catch-all” that is often a trap for honest people.  Just the judge in the Georgia criminal case against Donald Trump threw out charges because they were “too vague”, Penal Code section 550 charges are very often vague and simply created by prosecutors.

Our criminal defense specialists are highly skilled in defending Penal Code section 550 (insurance fraud) cases.  Our clients have included doctors, lawyers and individuals who have made insurance claims.  We are noted statewide for our skills in this area handling cases from Tehama County to Los Angeles (and many places in between!)

What is Penal Code section 550?

California Penal Code Section 550 criminalizes conduct that may constitute insurance fraud.  This section is exploited by insurance companies to target doctors and lawyers who represent injured workers.  It is also used as a threat to force settlement of insurance claims for pennies on the dollar.  It is one of the most abused Penal Code sections and many innocent doctors, lawyers and insured people are caught in this web.

Read about our recent victory in a PC 550 case based upon this motion.

What are some of the Ways to Violate Penal Code section 550?

There are so many ways to be caught in a PC 550 prosecution.  Here are just some of the acts that are prohibited:

1. Presenting a false or fraudulent claim for payment for a loss or injury. 
2. Presenting a fraudulent claim for vehicle theft or damage. 
3. Presenting a fraudulent claim for loss due to theft of, destruction or damage to property. 
4. Signing a document with the intent to support a false or fraudulent claim. 
5. Submitting a claim for healthcare benefit not used. 
6. Overcharging for medical services rendered. 
7. Billing for medical equipment not actually supplied. 
8. Overstating damage suffered in a car accident (to the car) 
9.Overstating the injuries suffered in an accident. 
10. Overstating the injuries and disabilities in a Workers Compensation claim.

Many of these items are simply a dispute between a doctor, a lawyer or an insured person and the insurance company.  Unfortunately, certain prosecutors take the word of the insurance company and launch criminal actions against people who are in a dispute with the insurer.

Can You Be Prosecuted for a Penal Code section 550 Violation if Someone Else Files the Form?

Physicians or Chiropractors or other care provider who prepares false documents for a fraudulent insurance claim may be prosecuted under Penal Code section 550(a)(1) for “causing the presentation of a fraudulent claim,” even though another person actually presents the claim. (People v. Singh (1995) 37 Cal.App.4th 1343, 1369–1370 [44 Cal.Rptr.2d 644].) Alternatively, the care provider may be prosecuted under Penal Code section 550(a)(5).  So this is a crime focused on the claim presented and not the mechanics as to who actually signed the claim form.

Is the Penal Code section 550 Charge a Felony or Misdemeanor?

The amount of the claim matters. Fraudulent claims for health-care benefits, under Penal Code section 550(a)(6) to (9), are misdemeanors if the total amount of the claims does not exceed $950. (Pen. Code, § 550(c)(2).) If the defendant is charged with a felony, then the misdemeanor offense is a lesser included offense. The court must provide the jury with a verdict form on which the jury will indicate if the total amount of the claims exceeds $950. If the jury finds that the amount does not exceed $950, then the offense should be set at a misdemeanor.  This is a jury issue.  If the jury finds the defendant  guilty of insurance fraud in connection with health-care claims, that same jury must then decide whether the Prosecution has proved that the total value of the false claims were more than $950 [within a period of 12 consecutive months].

Unanimity - What Does a Jury Have to Agree Upon?

If the prosecution alleges under a single count that the defendant made multiple false statements, the court must instruct on unanimity. (See People v. Sutherland (1993) 17 Cal.App.4th 602, 619, fn. 6 [21 Cal.Rptr.2d 752]; People v. Dieguez (2001) 89 Cal.App.4th 266, 274–275 [107 Cal.Rptr.2d 160].) However, where the evidence shows a “continuous course of conduct,” a unanimity instruction is not required. (People v. Dieguez, supra, 89 Cal.App.4th at p. 275.)  This is always a major issue in fraud trials especially insurance fraud cases.   The Horowitz office has focused on the key issues in Penal Code section 550 cases including unanimity, statute of limitations, void for vagueness and other technical and critical points.  Our criminal defense specialist title is truly reflected in the exceptional quality of defense that we provide in these complex fraud cases.

 Our Blog discusses some additional issues in these Penal Code 550 and fraud cases:

See:   Defenses to 550 Cases

         The Williamson Defense to Penal Code section 550 Cases

Defense of insurance fraud cases is not a do it yourself project.  You need the best lawyer who specializes in criminal defense and criminal fraud defense.  Lawyers in Lafayette is a group of affiliated top criminal defense lawyers including former prosecutors and certified criminal defense specialists (State Bar of California, Board of Legal Specialization).  Call us if you are facing criminal fraud charges. 

Learn more: The Criminal Process Explained by the California Courts with Comments by Daniel Horowitz (lawyersinlafayette.com)

Located in Contra Costa County, our group of affiliated independent attorneys (Lawyers in Lafayette) defend  Penal Code section 550 cases throughout California.  Recent cases are in Tehama County and Riverside (Orange County).  

Defending criminal cases from Walnut Creek to Los Angeles and nationwide.  Daniel Horowitz is a criminal defense specialist, one of less than 10 in all of Contra Costa County.  His main office is in Lafayette, California.  On criminal cases requiring a high level of expertise and experience he is contacted by clients and lawyers statewide.

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