NORTH MIAMI, Fla. – Philip Esformes was known as the King of Medicare fraud with the epicenter of his swindling happening here in South Florida.
On Tuesday night, Esformes didn’t exactly become a free man, but he did get out of jail.
He was one of 20 people granted clemency by President Donald J. Trump, who gave the 52-year-old a get-out-of-jail-free card.
Well, the clemency does not mean is is completely free .
Caroline Mala Corbin, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Miami, explains:
“A pardon completely eliminate the punishment, a commutation only reduces it.”
This means the time Esformes would spend in jail has been shortened.
“If your sentence is commuted, your conviction still stands and the limits still stand. The bottom line? While he may leave jail early, all of the other limitations that go with his conviction remain,” Corbin said. Now away from the Florida prison, where he was to serve a 20-year-sentence, he will be on supervised release and still owes millions of dollars in restitution.
We went to the Miami Beach home where Esformes’ name remains on property records. His ex-wife had nothing to say about his release when Local 10 showed up at the door.
In 2019, after an eight-week trial, Esformes was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison. Prosecutors said he bribed physicians to admit patients into his facilities, many in South Florida.
Then he would bilk Medicare and Medicaid out of a billion-plus dollars for services that were not provide or were unnecessary.
In sentencing Esformes to 20 years in prison last year, a federal judge in Miami called the length and scope of his criminal conduct “unmatched in our community, if not the country” and an “epic” violation of trust, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.
The newspaper began chronicling Esformes’ rise to nursing home mogul more than a decade ago, when he, along with his father and business partner controlled a network of more than two dozen health care facilities that stretched from Chicago to Miami. The newspaper said he owned a luxury condominium on Chicago’s Magnicent Mile and mansions in Miami and Los Angeles.
Esformes was arrested in 2016 at his Miami estate and charged with a massive $1.3 billion Medicare and Medicaid fraud scheme. At the time, it was billed by the U.S. Justice Department as the largest single criminal health care fraud case ever, according to the Chicago Tribune,
In 2017, Local 10 News highlighted the conditions in Eden Gardens in North Miami, an Esformes facility that had to be evacuated.
State investigators found bed bugs, rodents, and insufficient patient care.
The man’s name on the president’s list baffled some.
“What is going on here?” asked Andrew Weissman, the former lead prosecutor to special counsel Robert Mueller. “This is an administration that has taken healthcare fraud cases quite seriously. And so the anomaly here is why Esformes? What is the connection?”
Esformes’ attorney claimed prosecutors’ misconduct at trial could have been a reason for the president’s actions. That misconduct apparently included the seizure of records at Eden Gardens, but we did not get comment from the U.S. Attorney’s office.
The statement from the White House addressing the executive grants of clemency said this about Enformes’ commuted sentence.
“Today, President Trump commuted the term of imprisonment of Philip Esformes, while leaving the remaining aspects of his sentence, including supervised release and restitution, intact. This commutation is supported by former Attorneys General Edwin Meese and Michael Mukasey, as well as former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson. In addition, former Attorneys General Edwin Meese, John Ashcroft, and Alberto Gonzalez, as well as other notable legal figures such as Ken Starr, have filed in support of his appeal challenging his conviction on the basis of prosecutorial misconduct related to violating attorney-client privilege. While in prison, Mr. Esformes, who is 52, has been devoted to prayer and repentance and is in declining health.”
On Wednesday, Local 10 News could not get an answer as to what might be the cause of his “declining health.”
It was also not clear if Esformes has returned to South Florida.