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On Wednesday, a federal judge in Tampa postponed until next year the criminal trial of Thaddeus M.S. Bereday, the ousted general counsel of WellCare Health Plans, Inc., along with four other former company execs. In a motion seeking the delay [PDF], Bereday’s lawyer revealed that prosecutors possess millions of pages of electronic documents and company emails, as well as over 650 hours of recorded conversations—presumably featuring the defendants—taped by a cooperating witness. The motion said the delay was needed “as a result of the complexity of the issues in this matter, the amount of discovery, and the existence of pending motions.” Prosecutors agreed to the delay. All the defendants said they need more time to process the materials and to resolve disputes over other discovery requests. One of those disputes, according to the motion, involves the defendants’ request for materials from WellCare’s own internal investigation. In granting the delay, U.S. District Court judge James Moody, Jr., said, “The Court finds the ends of justice served by the continuance to allow the defendants more time to prepare outweighs the best interest of the public and the defendants in a speedy trial.” Moody set the next status conference on the case for February 2, 2012. He also excluded the time of the continuance from the “speedy trial” calculation. Bereday and the other four defendants were indicted in early March for allegedly trying to bilk Medicaid of millions of dollars. Bereday faces one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, four counts of making false statements, and four counts of health care fraud. The indictment accuses Bereday specifically of taking part in meetings and emails that planned and executed a conspiracy to funnel Medicaid profits through HMOs and hide them in a third company. In their motion, the defendants’ lawyers said, “This case involves numerous complex issues concerning certain submissions made by WellCare. . . The discovery in this case is massive.” Besides the tape recordings and electronic documents, the motion cites 760 boxes of hard copy documents seized during a 2007 government raid on WellCare’s Tampa headquarters. WellCare provides managed care services for government-sponsored health care programs. In 2009, the company agreed to a $137.5 million settlement with state and federal governments; but one of four whistleblowers in the case filed an objection, and the company has said its expects a fairness hearing on the settlement to be scheduled in 2012. WellCare also reached a $200 million settlement with class action plaintiffs in a securities class action suit stemming from the fraud. The company’s lawsuit against the individual defendants, including Bereday, for breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duties, is stayed pending the outcome of the criminal trial. See also: “Ex-General Counsel, 4 Other Former WellCare Execs Indicted in Alleged Medicaid Fraud,” CorpCounsel, March 2011.

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