Physician charged with fraud accuses FBI, DOJ of routinely spying on defense strategy

Lawyers representing a physician accused of fraud filed court documents May 26 alleging that prosecutors secretly gained access to files assembled by the defense team, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The lawyers are representing Salo Schapiro, MD, a Broward County, Fla., physician charged with healthcare fraud.

They claim that an assistant U.S. attorney informed them in April that an FBI agent had received CDs containing duplicates of defense discovery files. The CDs contained files the defense team had put together from more than 200 boxes of seized government evidence made available to them. In their court filing, the lawyers argue the files of documents selected reveal their pre-trial strategy and are protected under the attorney work product doctrine.

The documents were provided to the FBI agent by a government-contracted service that makes copies of discovery documents defense lawyers want to inspect, according to WSJ. Dr. Schapiro's lawyers claim the owner of the service said he routinely provided duplicates of set-aside files to the FBI.

"It appears that this practice of surreptitiously duplicating the discovery work-product of defense counsel in the Southern District of Florida has been the norm for at least the last 10 years," the lawyers stated in court papers, according to WSJ.

The lawyers have requested the charges against Dr. Schapiro be dismissed. If the charges remain, the lawyers want the entire prosecution team disqualified.

The U.S. attorney's office fired back against the allegations in a brief fired Thursday.

"[T]to date it has found that there was simply no pervasive practice of receiving or recording defense discovery, and that it was not a widespread or institutionalized practice. Although a few matters have been identified where copy CDs were provided, it was either known and agreed to by the defense and the copy CD was maintained for record keeping purposes, or the prosecutors did not have a distinct memory of a copy CD being provided, and in any event, they never looked at any," prosecutors stated in their brief, according to WSJ.

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