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Texas Lawyer Convicted of Conspiracy and Perjury

TYLER – A Houston lawyer has been found guilty of federal violations in the Eastern District of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney Damien M. Diggs today.

Peter J. Bennett, 48, was found guilty by a jury of money laundering conspiracy, money transmitting conspiracy, and perjury.  The verdict was reached on July 14, 2023, following a week-long trial before U.S. District Judge Jeremy D. Kernodle.

“Lawyers swear an oath to support and uphold the Constitution and the laws of the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Damien M. Diggs.  “This defendant abandoned his oath and used his bar license to launder and transmit the proceeds of a healthcare kickback conspiracy. Let this case serve as a cautionary tale to those who think they can hide criminal conduct behind professional licenses.”

“By facilitating kickbacks, this defendant knowingly enabled theft from Medicare and Medicaid, putting personal profit before legitimate patient needs and ultimately costing taxpayers millions of dollars,” said Jason E. Meadows, Special Agent in Charge at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “Thanks to the strong partnership between federal and state law enforcement agencies, those who attempt to defraud federal health care programs will be held accountable.”

“The Department of Defense Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) is committed to protecting the integrity of TRICARE, the healthcare system for military members and their families,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Michael C. Mentavlos, DCIS.  “Today’s guilty verdict demonstrates our commitment to partner with the United States Attorney’s Office and investigate fraudulent schemes that impact TRICARE and put its beneficiaries at risk.”

According to information presented in court, Bennett created sham trusts and shell corporations through which he laundered at least $2,724,080.41 in healthcare kickback proceeds.  Bennett used his law firm’s Interest on Lawyers Trust Account (IOLTA), operating account, and a personal bank account to launder and transmit the kickback proceeds. The perjury charges arose out of false statements Bennett made in response to interrogatories propounded in Civil Investigative Demands issued by the Department of Justice as part of a False Claims Act (FCA) investigation.  Bennett was indicted by a federal grand jury in February 2022.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, and the Defense Criminal Investigative Services (DCIS) with assistance from the U.S. Secret Service.  It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Adrian Garcia, Nathaniel C. Kummerfeld, and Betty Young, with assistance from Assistant U.S. Attorneys James Gillingham and Kevin McClendon.

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