The Defendant Sila Luis was charged with stealing over $45 million by allegedly paying kickbacks and conspiring to commit fraud, all related to health care. Luis wanted to hire her own attorney, but the government froze all of her funds, even those funds unrelated to the crimes she was accused of committing. Federal law allows the government to freeze certain assets of a defendant accused of health care fraud. The assets that the government can freeze can be any property obtained as a result of the crime, property traceable to the crime, or substitute property. Here the government sought to freeze substitute property, property that had no relationship to the crime. Luis v. United States.
The district court and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals both agreed with the government that substitute property could be frozen, even though Luis sought to have the property released to pay her attorneys. Fortunately, the Supreme Court reversed and held that the freezing of untainted assets needed to retain counsel of defendant’s choice violated her Sixth Amendment right to counsel.