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State Rep. Ed Henry, indicted on federal fraud charges, says he is innocent

Brandon Moseley

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On Thursday, state Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, who was a business partner with a doctor who admits his involved in a pill mill, was arrested on charges of defrauding Medicare, conspiracy, and money laundering.

Henry, following his arrest, went to Facebook to announce that he is not guilty.

“I’ve always been as open and transparent as possible,” Henry said. “For the last 8 years I have fought the government from further encroachment on our Freedoms. Today began my fight with the Federal Government for my freedom. So while I would like to lay everything on the table for all to see, that would not be wise while fighting an opponent that has endless resources like our Government. My goal was to help patients, and I did. Using a program established and promoted by Medicare, I helped chronically ill patients and saved the taxpayers’ money. For that, I have been charged with multiple Felonies. I am not guilty of any crimes.”

United States Attorney Louis V. Franklin, Sr. said that Henry, from 2015 through 2017, was an owner of a health care company, MyPractice24, Inc. (MyPractice24).

During some of that time, Henry also served as the company’s CEO.

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“MyPractice24 provided non-face-to-face chronic care management services to Medicare beneficiaries who had two or more chronic conditions,” the Office said. “The company did so pursuant to contracts into which it entered with primary care physicians. Under those contracts, the doctors would pay Henry’s company to provide these chronic care management services to the doctors’ patients, the company would provide the services, the doctors would bill Medicare for the services, and then the doctors would pay Henry’s company a share of the reimbursements received from Medicare.

“The indictment alleges that in 2016, Henry entered into an agreement with Dr. Gilberto Sanchez, a Montgomery physician who has subsequently pleaded guilty to drug distribution, health care fraud, and money laundering charges.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said that under that agreement, “MyPractice24 would provide various kickbacks to Dr. Sanchez and his staff in return for the providers at Dr. Sanchez’s practice referring Medicare beneficiaries to MyPractice24 for chronic care management services.”

“Among the kickbacks provided were direct payments to a member of the staff, free chronic care management services, free medical billing services, and free clinical services unrelated to the provision of chronic care management services,” the office said.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said that Henry also “assisted Dr. Sanchez in paying kickbacks to patients who enrolled in the chronic care management program.”

“Dr. Sanchez paid these kickbacks by systematically waiving copays—copays which Medicare required Dr. Sanchez to collect,” The Office said.

“The indictment charges Henry with one count of conspiring to pay kickbacks and to defraud the United States,” The U.S. Attorney’s Office said. “It then alleges six counts of paying unlawful kickbacks—each count is based on a different type of kickback Henry paid to Dr. Sanchez and those who worked at Dr. Sanchez’s practice.”

“Next, the indictment charges Henry with one count of conspiring to commit health care fraud and five counts of health care fraud,” The U.S. Attorney’s Office said. “Those counts are based on Henry’s assisting Dr. Sanchez in unlawfully waiving copay obligations and then failing to report the copay waivers to Medicare.”

“Last, the indictment alleges that Henry conspired to commit money laundering,” The U.S. Attorney’s Office said. “The money laundering charge results from Henry’s using the proceeds of health care fraud to make payments to Dr. Sanchez’s staff members.”

“This case was investigated by the United States Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Tactical Diversion Squad, and the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division. The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners, the Montgomery Police Department, and the Opelika Police Department assisted in the investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan S. Ross is prosecuting the case,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Dr. Sanchez pleaded guilty to drug distribution, health care fraud, and money laundering charges in 2017.

Medicare has strict rules that prevent healthcare providers and insurers from offering incentives to enter into Medicare managed care plans. These include not allowing an insurer, insurance agent, or healthcare provider from offering incentives including waiver of premiums without authorization from Medicare.

Henry was elected in the Republican wave election of 2010. Several members of that 2010 class have been subsequently indicted or entered plea deals for various offenses.

State Rep. Greg Wren, R-Montgomery, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges with the state AG’s Special Prosecutions Division that he used his office for personal gain.

State Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise, was indicted and prosecuted by state prosecutors for perjury. He was found not guilty in a jury trial.

Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, was convicted on 12 state charges of felony ethics violations.

State Rep. Oliver Robinson, D-Birmingham, pleaded guilty to federal corruption and bribery charges in an alleged conspiracy to prevent a Super Fund site in North Birmingham from being prioritized and expanded.

House Majority Leader Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges.

State Rep. Jack Williams, R-Vestavia, has been indicted on federal conspiracy charges alleging that he knew that Hammon had been corrupted by a California businessman and moved legislation through committee that Hammon wanted anyway.

Henry is the seventh member of the House to be indicted or to have taken a plea deal in the last five years.

Henry has been a vocal critic of Deputy Alabama Attorney General Matt Hart and the Special Prosecutions Division. Many legislators have been critical of the state’s ethic law and have urged that it be rewritten to give them more personal freedom to do money making deals on the side.

A joint House and Senate committee has been appointed to work on reforming, some say weakening, the ethics law after the election.

Henry is not running again for another term.

An indictment is not proof of guilt. Henry will have an opportunity to present a defense if the case moves forward.

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Elections

Robert McKay sues to have Lipscomb removed from the ballot

Brandon Moseley

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On Thursday, Republican Primary House District 30 candidate Robert McKay filed suit in Etowah County asking the court to have his Republican primary runoff opponent, Brandon Craig Lipscomb removed from the November 6 general election ballot and that he be placed there instead.

Lipscomb beat McKay in the July Republican primary runoff election.

McKay is suing B. Craig Lipscomb, Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan, Secretary of State John Merrill (R), Alabama Ethics Commission Director Thomas Albritton and any other individuals or companies that had some involvement in the decision to allow Lipscomb to remain on the ballot.

The plaintiff is contending that as candidates are required to file a Statement of Economic Interests form with the Alabama Ethics Commission and Lipscomb did not file his 2017 statement by the April 30 deadline he should be removed from the ballot by the court and that Robert McKay instead be placed on the ballot as the Republican nominee in House District 30.

House District 30 is composed of parts of St. Clair and Etowah Counties. Incumbent Representative Mack Butler (R-Rainbow City) is not running for another term.

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Etowah County Republican Party Chairman Phil Williams told the Alabama Political Reporter, ““As the Chairman for the Etowah County Republican Party I take great interest in Robert McKay’s attempt to manipulate the outcome of the recent election. Craig Lipscomb is a good candidate who ran a solid race to earn the right to be the GOP nominee for House District 30. He has been certified by the Alabama Ethics Commission and the State Republican Party. It is unfortunate that Mr. McKay would pursue such a fruitless action here at the 11th hour. But in the end I believe that the Court will affirm Craig Lipscomb’s standing as our candidate.”

It has been recently reported that certain candidates did not file their 2017 statements by the deadline. Under Alabama law failure to file a Statement of Economic Interests means removal from the ballot. On Saturday, the Republican Party told the Alabama Republican Reporter that they will not be removing any candidates from the November 6 ballot.

“There has been a lot of confusion and misinformation disseminated on this topic,” Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan told APR in a statement. “The ALGOP has received compliance clearance for all of our candidates from the Alabama Ethics Commission. There will be nonec removed by our Party as they have met our qualifications.”

“If an official filed late, after April 30 while they had a form already on file with the Alabama Ethics Commission, it is not ballot removal,” Lathan added. “They may incur a small fine but that is a decision the Commission may or not make. There is also a grace period for filing.”

Brandon Craig Lipscomb is a Gadsden architect.

Robert McKay is the former Mayor of Ashville.

Secretary of State John Merrill told APR that Public Service Commissioner Jeremy Oden (R), State Senator Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville) and State Representative Dimitri Polizos (R-Montgomery) all also did not file their 2017 Statement of Economic Interests by the April 30th deadline and were given the opportunity to file late recently.

This lawsuit does not directly impact those candidates.

Lipscomb is being represented by former Assistant Alabama Attorney General and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Algert S. Agricola Jr. with the Montgomery based firm of Ryals, Donaldson, and Agricola, He has 40 years of legal experience.

Merrill said that the candidates could be subject to a fine of $5 a day at the Discretion of the Ethics Commission; but that missing the deadline did not rise to the level of removal as long as the candidate filed the current statement within ten days of receiving a notice that the filing needed to be made. Merrill said that all of the candidates were approved by the Alabama Ethics Commission.

In Gadsden’s City election three candidates (two council candidates and a mayoral candidate) were recently disqualified because they did not file their Statement of Economic Interests when they qualified.

The Alabama Republican Party Executive Committee has until August 25 to make a decision to replace a candidate on the ballot. The ALGOP executive committee will be meeting on that date for their annual summer meeting.

The general election will be on November 6.  The Republican nominee, whoever  that is, will face Jared Vaughn (D).

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Bill Britt

Opinion | What is possible…

Bill Britt

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From the Capitol to the State House, from the business community to the halls of education, there is an urgent need for Alabama leaders who will work together to turn back the prevailing tide of self-dealing and mediocracy. Alabama is far too often the home of status quo where leaders don’t dare aim for the far horizon because that requires facing unpleasant facts that demand hard choices. Over the last several months, Alabama Power Company’s CEO, Mark Crosswhite, and  leaders from Regions Bank, Blue Cross Blue Shield, PowerSouth, Protective Life Corp., and others marquee businesses displayed extraordinary courage to salvage the burning ship that was the Business Council of Alabama.

As Crosswhite said in announcing BCA’s restructuring plan, “The wholesale governance and leadership changes made today show what is possible when businesses come together with a common goal.”

The fight to save BCA was not merely about what was best for business but how BCA, as an institution, could serve the higher interests of the state. Again, Crosswhite makes the point, “While the hard work of moving this organization forward remains, I am pleased with this progress and look forward to working with businesses across our state for a stronger BCA and a better Alabama.”

There is indeed hard work ahead because over the last several years, BCA’s culture has been shaped by the self-interests of a few unprincipled individuals.

What is BCA’s core mission?

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Its website says, “Making a sweet home for business.” That’s a slogan, not a purpose.

A mission statement in business is like an individual’s core beliefs; it is the guiding principle for every action and the place to run back to when things go wrong.

Going forward, the new executive committee will need to define what BCA is and what its character is.

Over the years, BCA has become synonymous with the Republican Party, but businesses, also like individuals, are more than a label. As billionaire industrialist Charles Koch said recently, “I don’t care what initials are in front or after somebody’s name.”

Perhaps Heather Brothers New, chairwoman of the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama, said it best, “We are fortunate in Alabama to have a business community that understands the importance of providing strong leadership on matters that affect our state’s economic success,” New said. “Individuals, families, and communities can’t thrive if our state doesn’t provide an environment where businesses can thrive. Everyone in Alabama benefits from this effort to ensure a unified and effective BCA.”

With governance and leadership changes at BCA, there is an opportunity to start anew to create a better BCA to serve its members and the state. As Bobby Vaughan, a representative from the Alabama Self-Insured Worker’s Compensation Fund said, “At the end of the day, our members are our customers. Our job is to serve the interests of our members, and the new structure will enable us to do that more effectively.”

Crisis and opportunity are two sides of the same coin. Crosswhite and his fellow corporate leaders have shown what is possible. Now, the hard work begins.

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National

Shelby announces rural development investments in Alabama

Brandon Moseley

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Thursday, U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is granting $694,000 in federal funding for various energy-efficiency projects in rural Alabama. The grants are provided through the USDA Rural Energy for America program.

“It is vital that we continue investing in Alabama’s rural areas to promote economic development and growth,” said Senator Shelby. “These grants will allow farmers, ranchers, and small businesses to save on production costs while improving efficiency. I am proud that the USDA has awarded this funding to our state, and I look forward to continuing to help Alabama’s farmers and rural communities.”

The USDA’s Rural Energy for America program assists farmers, ranchers, and rural small businesses in developing renewable energy systems and in making energy-efficient improvements to their operations.

The rural development grants range in value from $105,554 to $32,500,

The grants will be used for improvements in Baldwin, Calhoun, Conecuh, Cullman, Elmore, Escambia, and Marshall counties.

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Senator Shelby is the Chairman of the powerful Senate Committee on Appropriations. The Appropriations Committee unanimously approved the Fiscal Year 2019 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill in May.

The legislation was approved by the full Senate in early August as part of a four-bill appropriations package, H.R. 6147.

Senator Richard Shelby was first elected to the Senate in 1986. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Alabama State Senate prior to his Senate service.

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National

Peter Joffrion challenges Mo Brooks to debates

Brandon Moseley

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Thursday, Democratic Congressional candidate Peter Joffrion is challenging incumbent Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) to a series of debates across Alabama’s 5thCongressional District.

This is the second time that Joffrion has offered to discuss the terms of a debate with Brooks, to include location, ticketing, and security. Joffrion has proposed holding that first debate the week of September 10.

“Avoiding his constituents and only engaging like-minded voters in safe spaces has worked for my opponent in the past, but the threats to his incumbency are gaining traction,” Joffrion said. “This will be Brooks’ first run against an opponent who enjoys the support of many in the district who have new-found interest in politics since the 2016 elections. These constituents have used their newly engaged state to unleash massive activism for candidates they feel are listening to them.”
Joffrion’s campaign said that “Brooks’ weak showing in the June Republican primary illustrated that his own North Alabama voters are dissatisfied with their current representation and the manner in which Mr. Brooks conducts himself.”

The Joffrion campaign has proposed that debates be held in each of the counties that make up the Fifth Congressional District: Lauderdale, Limestone, Madison, Morgan and most of Jackson.

Peter Joffrion grew up in North Alabama. After graduating from law school at the University of Alabama, Joffrion went to work in the City Attorney’s office. He worked there for 22 years.

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His wife Kerry is an ordained minister and the founder and CEO of Turning Point Group, a company committed to the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of U.S. military veterans. Joffrion is retired from the city. Joffrion is active in his Church

Since retiring from his post as Huntsville’s City Attorney, Peter has been active in his church and has served for 11 years as a tutor and mentor at the Boys and Girls Club.

Mo Brooks is also an attorney. He was a prosecutor, a state legislator, and a county commissioner before running for Congress. In 2008, voters elected Parker Griffith (D) to Congress. Brooks announced that he was running as a Republican against Griffith in 2010. Before the election, Griffith switched to the Republican Party. Undeterred, Brooks ran for the office anyway, unseating Griffith in the 2010 GOP Primary. Brooks beat Griffith again in the 2012 Republican Primary. Griffith switched parties again and was the Democratic party nominee for governor in 2014.

Brooks defeated Republican primary opponent, Clayton Hinchman, 61.26 percent to 38.74.

Brooks is a member of the House Freedom Caucus and one of the most vocal supporters of the space program in the Congress.

The general election will be November 6.

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State Rep. Ed Henry, indicted on federal fraud charges, says he is innocent

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 5 min
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