Our Atlanta nursing home abuse lawyers have followed the case of George Houser (see previous blog post here) since he was convicted of fraud in 2012. This month the case was in the news again, as the federal appeals court upheld that conviction.
George Houser, 66 years old, was convicted in 2012 of conspiracy to defraud Medicare, failure to file quarterly tax returns, and failure to file income taxes in a four-week long trial and a 471 page judgment. This is all related to his role as a nursing home operator in Georgia, where he had two nursing homes providing “worthless services.” The two nursing homes were in Rome, Georgia, and Houser also managed a third nursing facility between 2003 and 2007. The homes had insufficient staff and inadequate budgets. There were numerous physical problems: leaky roofs flooding residents’ rooms, no air conditioning or heating, broken laundry facilities, and bug infestations. Some residents were severely malnourished, losing weight while they stayed in the nursing homes. Mr. Houser allegedly told his staff to use their own money to buy the residents bread and milk, so they would not starve. Additionally he avoided paying payroll taxes on his employees and made infrequent payments to the IRS during the years at issue, and many of the checks he did send bounced. From this horrific scheme, the trial court found that Mr. Houser gained $2.28 million, put into his personal bank account, another $460,000 in his wife’s account, and $1.75 million in an account for his construction company between 2003 and 2007. With that money, he bought $4 million worth of property, luxury cars, and made alimony payments.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals found that Mr. Houser sought reimbursement from Medicare and Georgia’s Medicaid for services, such as pharmaceutical, diagnostic, medical, and dietary, that were not provided. The Court rejected Mr. Houser’s contention that he didn’t “wilfully” avoid paying taxes. The Court upheld Mr. Houser’s conviction and his 20-year prison sentence, plus more than $7 million in restitution to his victims. It also upheld the restitution of $870,000 to the IRS. The Appeals Court found that the trial court did not err in its April 2012 conviction and the evidence clearly supported the trial court’s decision, stating, “On appeal, Mr. Houser does not contest the deplorable conditions of his nursing homes; indeed, he recites, in detail, those conditions in his opening brief.” The decision also found, “We believe that this record, taken as a whole, reveals that Mr. Houser apprehended his obligation to pay over payroll taxes, but voluntarily and intentionally chose to spend available funds on the acquisition of personal goods and investment properties as opposed to satisfying his legal obligations. The record, therefore, amply supports the district court’s conviction.”