Thursday, October 29, 2020

Healthcare CEO sentenced to prison in Ala. State House bribery case

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California healthcare CEO Ford Gilbert, 71, will spend six months in federal prison for conspiring to bribe Alabama lawmakers to pass legislation to benefit his health clinics.

Gilbert pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government, agreeing to serve a six month custodial sentence followed by six months of home confinement; however, it took hours of deliberation to convince District Judge Myron Thompson to accept the plea agreement, which was below the recommended sentencing guideline of 18-24 months.

“How often does the U.S. Attorney’s Office ask for a downward variance for a defendant who isn’t cooperating,” Thompson asked.

Gilbert’s company, Trina Healthcare, developed an outpatient treatment for diabetes. In Alabama, Blue Cross Blue Shield declined to cover the treatments.

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The government says Gilbert created a scheme to push a bill through the Alabama Legislature in 2016 that would require Blue Cross to cover the treatments to benefit his clinics.

He paid House Majority Leader Micky Hammon, who was prosecuted in an unrelated case, to promote the bill and hired co-defendant Marty Connors to lobby the legislation.

Hammon and Connors then asked former Rep. Jack Williams, then-chairman of the Commerce and Small Business Committee, to hold a public hearing on the bill.

Connors and Williams knew about the payments to Hammon, according to federal authorities.

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Former Rep. Randy Davis received things of value to pressure other members of the House, amend a bill that had already been introduced in the 2016 session, and testify before a committee in favor of Trina Health.

The defense argued the judge should grant the downward variance to decrease Gilbert’s sentence because he’s lived an exemplary life, he received no profit from Trina, and stated his passion for sharing this treatment clouded his judgment.

The government argued the bill was dead on arrival and never went up for a vote.

“What difference does it make,” Thompson asked? “He paid a lawmaker, that is bribery.”

Thompson went on to ask what message he was sending to Goat Hill if he granted a lesser sentence for this crime. Attorneys stated the case has already sent shockwaves throughout the legislature.

Following hours of deliberation and a recess to consider the sentence, Thompson ultimately accepted the plea agreement.

Gilbert must surrender to the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 90.

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