Hospital Agrees to pay $7 Million in Whistleblower Settlement

TAMPA BAY TIMES -- ST. PETERSBURG — All Children's Hospital has agreed to pay $7 million to settle a whistle-blower lawsuit alleging it violated antikickback laws by paying inflated salaries and bonuses to doctors so that they would bring in more patients and revenues. The suit was filed in July 2011 by Barbara Schubert, who was director of operations for the doctors' practice at All Children's for more than a decade. She claimed the hospital overpaid doctors by about $5 million in 2010 alone, violating laws regulating the financial relationships between hospitals and the physicians who bring in patients. All Children's, which denied any wrongdoing in agreeing to the settlement, relies heavily on the state-federal Medicaid program. In 2010, the year it opened its new facility, 70 percent of its patient care revenues, or $370 million, came from Medicaid, according to an annual … [Read more...]

Groot: ‘We Must Learn to See Hidden Value’

Attorney Lonnie Groot likes the balancing act

By DONNA BALANCIA, Contributor LAKE HELEN -- Attorney Lonnie Groot likes the balancing act. Over the years as attorney for various Central Florida municipalities, Groot has always sought to keep the balance between big city growth and small town identity. “There’s a special place in my heart for Seminole County and the surrounding towns,” he said. “The region has been very good to me.” As he looks out over Lake Monroe from the sea wall at Sanford, Groot, who is Of Counsel with Strenstrom McIntosh Colbert Wigham & Partlow PA, can see more than water and a couple of people fishing by the harbor. “It’s a hidden gem, don’t you think?” Groot says. “There is the desire here for Sanford to grow and there’s a lot of potential here.” Groot has a knack to see beyond face value, colleagues, friends and family members say. He likes to get down to the … [Read more...]

Farmer-Turned-Attorney: ‘Economy is Pressuring our People’

Brad Hester Fighting for Ag

By DONNA BALANCIA, TFLJ Editor WINTER PARK, Fla. -- Attorney Brad Hester buys locally grown products whenever he can, and not solely to keep in good physical health. The dairy farmer-turned-attorney believes buying Florida-grown products will also nurture a healthy economy. “Agriculture is under a lot of pressure and I help however I can,” Hester said.  “Many factors impact the farmers and all of us are affected every day.” Hester has been involved in the industry for years and says the plight of the farmer pervades all realms of law, touching everything from real estate, to a wide range of environmental issues.  It has been a tough economy throughout the United States, but the farmers in Florida have a particularly tough row to hoe. “The pressure from development has been building, and land values have swung both ways,” said Hester, who works with the law … [Read more...]

Florida A&M Looking Ahead

Dean LeRoy Pernell

By DONNA BALANCIA, TFLJ Editor ORLANDO — It took many years for the College of Law at Florida A&M University to receive its accreditation by the American Bar Association, but Dean LeRoy Pernell said his real work is just beginning. See Dean LeRoy's video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcdR8tMPloA Pernell said he and his staff have set goals to achieve in order to continue to improve. Recruiting, bar examination preparation and community outreach, are markers Pernell says the law school must hit. "We're building a financially strong foundation and were able to provide a source of legal education for students who want to take advantage of that here," Pernell said. "But more importantly, were moving towards providing a major resource for the county both in terms of regional interaction with the bench and bar and providing intellectual resources for the community and our … [Read more...]

Former Informant Suing U.S. for Abandoning Her

CBS12 News, WPEC, West Palm Beach --  A former confidential informant working for the United States in Colombia claims in a lawsuit that the U.S. government abandoned her when she got into legal trouble for her undercover operations. Astrid Hurtado says she wound up spending three years in a Colombian jail. She is seeking $15 million in damages. The 52-year-old Hurtado worked for a U.S. task force investigating money laundering. She now lives in Florida. A 2006 U.S. government document says Hurtado's work led to the investigation, prosecution and guilty pleas of three people on drug-money-laundering charges. According to her lawsuit, the U.S. government didn't come to her aid after she was arrested in Colombia. The Justice Department has asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit. No one from the U.S. government would comment on the lawsuit. … [Read more...]