Adekale v. State

Decision Date26 February 2015
Docket NumberNo. S–14–0035.,S–14–0035.
Citation344 P.3d 761,2015 WY 30
PartiesAdebowale Oluseyi ADEKALE a/k/a Ted Adekale, Appellant (Defendant), v. The STATE of Wyoming, Appellee (Plaintiff).
CourtWyoming Supreme Court

Representing Appellant: Office of the State Public Defender: Diane Lozano, State Public Defender; Tina N. Olson, Chief Appellate Counsel; and David E. Westling, Senior Assistant Appellate Counsel. Argument by Mr. Westling.

Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney General; David L. Delicath, Deputy Attorney General; Jenny L. Craig, Senior Assistant Attorney General; and Hollis Ann Ploen, Student Intern. Argument by Ms. Ploen.

Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, KITE, DAVIS, and FOX, JJ.

Opinion

HILL, Justice.

[¶ 1] A jury found Adebowale Oluseyi Adekale guilty of fifteen counts of felony Medicaid fraud and one count of misdemeanor Medicaid fraud under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 42–4–111(a) and (b)(i). The district court sentenced Mr. Adekale to sixteen concurrent terms of four to ten years but suspended that sentence in favor of eight years of supervised probation. Mr. Adekale's timely appeal followed. Mr. Adekale contends that the State failed to present evidence that he provided “medical assistance” as defined in Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 42–4–102(a)(ii) and that the district court erred in its instruction to the jury. Mr. Adekale also appeals his sentence, which included a felony sentence for a misdemeanor conviction. We affirm in part and remand in part.

ISSUES1

[¶ 2] Mr. Adekale raises essentially four issues on appeal:

I. Whether the district court abused its discretion when it denied Mr. Adekale's motion for judgment of acquittal because the State produced no evidence that Mr. Adekale provided “medical assistance” as required by W.S. § 42–4–111(a).
II. Whether the district court abused its discretion when it denied Mr. Adekale's motion for judgment of acquittal because the State failed to prove the instructional element concerning the dates of the alleged fraud.
III. Whether the district court erred in its instructions to the jury when it included the term “habilitation,” and omitted the definitions of “medical assistance” and “knowingly.”
IV. Whether the district court erred in regard to one of the counts when it imposed a felony sentence for a misdemeanor conviction of Medicaid fraud.

Each issue requires examination under different standards of review. For this reason, we address each issue independently herein.

FACTS

[¶ 3] The Medicaid waiver program involved in this case provides residential habilitation and day habilitation services for developmentally disabled patients. Residential habilitation provides basic services to recipients able to live in their own home. Day habilitation provides patients the necessary physical and occupational tools to interact with society. Each recipient of these services has a plan which sets out the necessary services as well as a necessary caregiver to patient ratio. Mr. Adekale was a certified waiver services provider for both day and residential habilitation. Mr. Adekale offered these services through his business, Developmental Resources Center. The Medicaid fraud charges in this case deal with both categories of services.

[¶ 4] A complaint concerning billing discrepancies prompted an investigation of Mr. Adekale, and an investigator identified a pattern of fraud in Mr. Adekale's billing practices. Following the investigation, the State filed a sixteen-count information against Mr. Adekale for violating Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 42–4–111(a) and (b)(i) and (ii) (LexisNexis 2013).

[¶ 5] In pretrial motions, Mr. Adekale requested that the jury instructions include the definition of “medical assistance” found in Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 42–4–102(a)(ii) (LexisNexis 2013):

“Medical assistance” means partial or full payment of the reasonable charges assessed by any authorized provider of the services and supplies enumerated under W.S. 42–4–103 and consistent with limitations and reimbursement methodologies established by the department, which are provided on behalf of a qualified recipient, excluding those services and supplies provided by any relative of the recipient, unless the relative is a family caregiver providing services through a corporation or a limited liability company, which corporation or limited liability company the relative may own, under a home and community based waiver program, or for cosmetic purposes only[.]

The district court denied the request as premature and informed the parties that final instructions would be decided at trial. On the day trial began, the district court reviewed jury instructions with both parties. The State and Mr. Adekale stipulated to the general instruction that [t]he information in this case charges ... Adekale with unlawfully making false statements in providing habilitation services to Medicaid clients.”

[¶ 6] At trial, the State presented evidence that Mr. Adekale developed a pattern of billing the Medicaid program for services he did not perform. Service logs indicated that Mr. Adekale provided care for certain patients, though those patients were out of town or otherwise unavailable during the dates of the alleged care. The State also presented evidence of numerous incidents where some amount of care was provided, but that Mr. Adekale billed for services in excess of those actually provided.

[¶ 7] Following the conclusion of the State's case in chief, Mr. Adekale moved for judgment of acquittal arguing that the State failed to prove the precise dates on which he committed fraud or that he provided medical assistance as defined in § 42–4–102. Mr. Adekale's proposed understanding of that term requires that the State prove he made payment for the services received by his patients. The district court denied the motion for judgment of acquittal. The court held that charges covering a range of dates afforded due process in this case and that the alleged grammatical deficiency in the statutory definition of “medical assistance” would not cause the fraud charges to fail.

[¶ 8] The defense rested without presenting evidence and the court excused the jury to allow the parties to conference and determine final jury instructions. In conference, Mr. Adekale objected to the inclusion of the terms “habilitation” or “habilitation services” in the instruction describing the type of services provided.2 Mr. Adekale then requested that instruction specifically define the terms “medical assistance” and “knowingly.” The district court again emphasized that defining the term “medical assistance” would unnecessarily confuse the jury. Further, the district court recognized fraud as a general intent crime and therefore determined that including a definition of “knowingly” was unnecessary. The district court issued its instructions to the jury and the jury returned a guilty verdict on all sixteen counts.

[¶ 9] The district court sentenced Mr. Adekale to a minimum of four years to a maximum of ten years of confinement for each count, ordering each count to run concurrently. The district court suspended Mr. Adekale's confinement sentence in favor of eight years of supervised probation in addition to restitution. Mr. Adekale timely filed his appeal.

DISCUSSION

[¶ 10] A comprehensive examination of the Wyoming Medical Assistance and Services Act indicates that while the statute under which the State charged Mr. Adekale is ambiguous, the legislature's intent to criminalize the conduct involved in this case is clear. Accepted principles of statutory interpretation require this Court to implement that intent if possible. The district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied Mr. Adekale's motion for judgment of acquittal and the instructions proffered to the jury adequately advised them of the basis for his conviction. For these reasons we affirm Mr. Adekale's conviction as well as the district court's denial of his motion for judgment of acquittal. The district court, however, incorrectly sentenced Mr. Adekale for sixteen felony counts rather than for the fifteen felony counts and one misdemeanor count for which he was convicted. We remand the improper sentence for correction by the district court.

Issue I

[¶ 11] Mr. Adekale first contends that the district court abused its discretion when it denied his motion for judgment of acquittal because the State produced no evidence that Mr. Adekale provided “medical assistance” as that term is defined in § 42–4–102(a)(ii). Resolving this issue requires applying this Court's tools of statutory construction.

[¶ 12] Statutory interpretation is a question of law which we review de novo. Crain v. State, 2009 WY 128, ¶ 8, 218 P.3d 934, 938 (Wyo.2009). The plain, ordinary, and usual meaning of words used in a statute controls in the absence of clear statutory provisions to the contrary. Id. Where there is plain, unambiguous language used in a statute there is no room for construction, and a court may not look for and impose another meaning. Id. Where legislative intent is discernible a court should give effect to the “most likely, most reasonable, interpretation of the statute, given its design and purpose.” Rodriguez v. Casey, 2002 WY 111, ¶ 20, 50 P.3d 323, 329 (Wyo.2002).

[¶ 13] We have said that we will not add language or choose other words to change the meaning of a statute. Stutzman v. Office of Wyoming State Eng'r, 2006 WY 30, ¶¶ 14–16, 130 P.3d 470, 475 (Wyo.2006). On the other hand, “it is one of the surest indexes of a mature and developed jurisprudence ... to remember that the statutes always have some purpose or object to accomplish, whose sympathetic and imaginative discovery is the surest guide to their meaning.” Cabell v. Markham, 148 F.2d 737, 739 (2d Cir.1945), judgment aff'd, 326 U.S. 404, 66 S.Ct. 193, 90 L.Ed. 165 (1945) ; 2A Norman J. Singer and J.D. Shambie Singer, Sutherland on Statutory Construction § 45:9 (7th ed. 2014). This Court will not interpret a statute in a way which renders any portion of it meaningless or in a manner...

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