A woman who defrauded a technology illiterate physician out of more than $80,000 lost her appeal Thursday when the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found the woman took advantage of the doctor’s "remarkable" computer illiteracy for personal financial gain.
In January 2015, Dr. Farzana Khan hired Anastacia Vann Maclin to handle the business component of her medical practice, Iliana Psychiatric Associates. A few months after her hire, Maclin used Khan’s username and password to log into the Medicaid system and redirect Iliana’s Medicaid reimbursements from Khan’s business account to Maclin’s personal bank account. Maclin also changed the reimbursement method from paper checks to electronic fund transfers.
Maclin further enrolled Iliana in Medicaid’s electronic incentive program without Khan’s knowledge or permission, causing a one-time bonus of $21,250 intended for health care providers who digitized their paperwork to be deposited in Maclin’s personal account. In total, Maclin stole more than $80,000 from Khan between April 2015 and July 2016.
Upon discovering the missing funds, Khan fired Maclin and filed a police report. A grand jury returned a two-count indictment against Maclin for stealing Medicaid reimbursements and the incentive check in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 669.
Before trial, the district court granted Maclin's motion in limine to preclude witnesses from mentioning that Khan had an adult child with severe autism. Thus, when a prospective juror stated she knew Khan and knew the doctor had a “home for autism,” the juror was excused. But Maclin filed a motion for mistrial claiming the statement was prejudicial in light of the ruling on the motion in limine. Her motion was denied.
Maclin was found guilty of both counts, and her second motion for mistrial was denied when the court found the prospective juror’s fleeting statement could not have produced prejudicial sympathy. Maclin also received a sentencing enhancement because Khan was a “vulnerable victim” on the basis of her computer illiteracy. Khan testified Maclin knew the doctor did not understand how to use a computer, did not bank electronically, did not send her own emails and did not even use ATMs.
The court also noted Maclin was still paying restitution for a prior offense in which she did “basically, the same thing to another physician.” Thus, she was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment.
In its affirmation of the district court’s decision, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals first found the prospective juror’s statement did not implicate Maclin’s guilt and was entirely unrelated to the crimes Maclin was charged with. It further found in United States of America v. Anastacia V. Maclin, 18-2158, that the vulnerable victim enhancement was supported by the fact that Khan was remarkably computer illiterate, to the point that she totally entrusted the business aspect of her practice to Maclin.
“Maclin used that knowledge to defraud Dr. Khan using the electronic billing system,” Judge William J. Bauer wrote. “The district court noted that Dr. Khan was intelligent, and that it was a ‘close call’ but concluded that ‘literally — in 15 years, I have never seen somebody so technologically unsophisticated as this victim to the point where she literally has never used e-mail even. She doesn’t have the ability to check her accounts.’”
The 7th Circuit Court additionally found that Maclin’s enhanced sentence was not inappropriate considering the gravity of the case and “considering Maclin stole a substantial sum of money from Dr. Khan while still paying restitution for an almost identical crime.”