FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — On July 26, the Western District of Arkansas Federal Court in Fort Smith ruled that a Lavaca man facing charges in a $100 million COVID-19 fraud scheme may represent himself in court.

Billy Joe Taylor, 43, filed a motion for self-representation on July 8. That filing notes that Taylor has been represented by “a revolving carousel of counsel throughout these proceedings” to date. Taylor is charged with 16 counts of health care fraud and one count of engaging in a monetary transaction in criminally derived property.

The July 8 motion states that Taylor informed his most recent attorney, Kenneth Osbourne, on July 6 of his intent to represent himself. Osborne then “explained the requirements of self-representation” to Taylor.

On July 26, Judge P.K. Holmes III approved Taylor’s request, appointing Osborne “to serve in the limited role of standby counsel.”

Mr. Osborne may assist Mr. Taylor in complying with basic rules of court protocol and procedure, introducing evidence, objecting to testimony, and completing routine tasks like filing materials on the docket. However, Mr. Taylor will control the organization and content of his defense, and may use or reject Mr. Osborne’s advice as Mr. Taylor wishes. Mr. Osborne has no obligation to assist Mr. Taylor with legal research, legal writing, discovery, or legal strategy. But Mr. Osborne shall acquire and maintain sufficient familiarity with this matter to enable him to take over Mr. Taylor’s representation if ordered to do so by this Court.

Judge P.K. Holmes III, ruling on Billy Joe Taylor’s motion for self-representation

Taylor submitted a pair of handwritten motions on August 1. One includes a request for all of the following to be provided for him at the Washington County Jail:

  • A “private area” eight hours per day
  • A computer
  • A printer
  • A copy machine
  • “Unmonitored phone times”
  • An office chair
  • A desk

His filing states that “the facility housing the defendant is uncooperative and resistant to accomodate without a signed court order.”

On June 27, Judge Holmes delayed the trial start date until February 13, 2023. According to court documents, Taylor engaged in a scheme between February 2017 and May 2021 in connection with diagnostic laboratory testing, including urine drug testing and tests for respiratory illnesses during the COVID-19 pandemic that was medically unnecessary, not ordered by medical providers, and/or not provided as represented.

The indictment states that Taylor controlled and directed multiple diagnostic laboratories, and used those labs to submit more than $100 million in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare. Each of the counts is punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.