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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.

“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.”

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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.”

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“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.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Economy

New unemployment claims continued dropping last week

Micah Danney

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There were 8,679 new unemployment claims filed in Alabama last week, slightly fewer than the 8,848 filed the previous week, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.

Of the claims filed between Sept. 13 and Sept. 19, 4,465, or 51 percent, were related to COVID-19. That’s the same percentage as the previous week.

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Economy

Unemployment benefits could change for some Alabamians

ADOL will begin the review when the current quarter ends on Oct. 3. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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Some Alabamians receiving unemployment benefits could see changes in those benefits after the Alabama Department of Labor conducts a required quarterly review and redetermines eligibility, the department said Friday. 

The Alabama Department of Labor said in a press release Friday that no action is required by those receiving regular unemployment, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation. 

ADOL will begin the review when the current quarter ends on Oct. 3. 

“Some may remain eligible for PUA or PEUC, OR they may be required to change to regular unemployment compensation. Weekly benefit amounts may also change. This depends on eligibility requirements,” ADOL said in the release. “Those claimants whose benefit year ends prior to October 3, 2020, will have their claims reevaluated.” 

After the review, if the claimant is determined not to be eligible for regular unemployment compensation, those who qualify may still be able to be paid under PUA or PEUC, and that determination will be made automatically and payment will be issued, the department said in the release. 

Claimants must also continue to certify their weeks.

Many claimants are not receiving benefits because they fail to file their weekly certifications, i.e. requests for payment. ADOL cannot pay benefits for weeks that have not been properly certified. Certifications can be done online at labor.alabama.gov or by calling the appropriate number:

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  • Montgomery – (334) 954-4094
  • Birmingham – (205) 458-2282
  • Not in Local Area – (800) 752-7389

PUA recipients must file their weekly certifications either by telephone or on the PUA app, at pua.labor.alabama.gov.

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Congress

Alabama Republicans praise President Trump’s SCOTUS nomination

“The confirmation process is already proving to be another brutal fight, but I am certain that this is the job for a strong, conservative woman,” Ivey said.

Brandon Moseley

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President Donald Trump, left, and his Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett. (WHITE HOUSE PHOTO)

President Donald Trump on Saturday nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the United States Supreme Court, and, if confirmed, Barrett would fill the vacancy created by the death of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Trump’s nomination of Barrett was met with near universal praise among Alabama Republicans including Gov. Kay Ivey and a number of other elected officials.

“I commend President Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to serve on the United States Supreme Court. Judge Barrett will be focused on interpreting the law, being an arbiter and not a lawmaker, as the Supreme Court demands of its justices,” Ivey said. “Based on her proven career and background, I am confident that Judge Barrett will be articulate and a fair supporter of issues important to Alabamians such as protecting the unborn and our Second Amendment rights, while applying the law impartially.”

Barrett has served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit since 2017. Before becoming a judge, she was a law professor at Notre Dame Law School and previously clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Ivey said Barrett will embody the precedent established by Ginsburg and further prove that a woman can be a wife, a mother, a person of faith and hold strong personal convictions while still effectively performing the duties required of a justice.

“The confirmation process is already proving to be another brutal fight, but I am certain that this is the job for a strong, conservative woman,” Ivey said. “The people of Alabama overwhelmingly supported President Trump in 2016, and I commend him for performing his constitutional duty of nominating to the Supreme Court and getting the job done that we elected him to do. The late Justice Ginsburg herself noted that even in an election year, ‘a president doesn’t stop being president.’”

Before her death, Ginsburg reportedly made a request that her replacement not be nominated or confirmed until a “new president is installed.” Last week, Ginsburg became the first woman and the first Jewish person to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol.

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President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump pay their respects to Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020, as she lies in repose at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. Justice Ginsburg passed away on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

“I eagerly anticipate Judge Barrett’s confirmation, and I look forward to continuing to forge a strong relationship between President Trump and the state of Alabama during his next term,” said Ivey.

Democratic Senators, though they do not appear to have the votes to stop Barrett’s nomination, are vociferously opposed to confirming a new justice before the Nov. 3 election determines whether Trump will serve as second term.

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Democrats point to what they say is the hypocritical position of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who refused to hold hearings or a vote on President Barack Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, in 2016.

All but two Republican senators appear prepared to vote for Barrett’s confirmation, all but assuring her a seat on the court and solidifying a 6-3 conservative majority.

“I am extremely pleased with President Trump’s selection in nominating Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court,” said Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama. “From her clerkship for the late Justice Scalia to her tenure on the 7th Circuit, Judge Barrett has had a distinguished career and has proven her commitment to the rule of law. Our next Supreme Court Justice must be a steadfast supporter of upholding our nation’s Constitution. I have no doubt in Judge Barrett’s qualifications, and I look forward to supporting her nomination.”

Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, a Democrat, has said he will not vote for any nominee until the results of the Nov. 3 election are decided.

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan:

“President Trump has nominated a superior candidate for our nation’s highest court. Judge Amy Coney Barrett is a solid constitutional jurist who has distinguished herself both on the bench during her time on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, in academia as a law professor at the University Notre Dame and as a clerk for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia,” Lathan said. “Judge Barrett’s focus on following the Constitution is apparent in her opinions, in cases ranging from the 2nd Amendment to immigration. Even three Democrat Senators – Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Tim Kaine of Virginia and Joe Donnelly crossed party lines in 2017 to support her first nomination to the bench.”

“A mother of seven, including two adopted children from Haiti, Supreme Court nominee Barrett has been called a ‘powerhouse’ constitutionalist,” Lathan continued. “Her consistent rulings on applying laws to the words of our U.S. Constitution is the exact example of what the justices are tasked with in implementing their rulings. Based on qualifications and experience alone, Judge Barrett’s nomination merits a vote by the full United States Senate.”

Congressman Gary Palmer:

“President Trump has made an excellent choice in nominating Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court, and I extend my heartfelt congratulations to her and her family,” Congressman Gary Palmer, R-Alabama, said. “Judge Barrett has a stellar record of faithfully interpreting the law, training young lawyers, producing brilliant scholarship, and upholding the Constitution. Her devotion to her family, and her dedication to her students during her years as a law professor, are also commendable. There is no question that she is highly qualified and will make a fantastic Justice. I urge the Senate to confirm her quickly.”

Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville:

“I am so excited about President Trump’s nomination today of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Republican Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville. “She understands that’s it’s her job to interpret the Constitution as it’s written and not to manufacture new law from the bench. Her nomination opens the door to protecting unborn life, preserving our Second Amendment gun rights, and securing the religious freedoms guaranteed to us by the Constitution.”

“My opponent, Democrat Doug Jones has a very different opinion,” Tuberville continued. “He’s already announced his opposition to any candidate offered by President Donald J. Trump, and he said even meeting and listening to Judge Barrett would be useless. When it comes to giving fair consideration to President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Doug Jones is a lost ball in high cotton. But that comes as no surprise. He voted against Brett Kavanaugh and said he would have opposed Neil Gorsuch if he’d been in the Senate at the time. Democrat Doug even voted twice to remove Donald J. Trump from office. Since becoming our placeholder senator, Doug Jones has opposed everything most Alabamians support and supported everything most Alabamians oppose. Instead of representing our conservative Alabama values, he’s represented the Hollywood and New York values of his high-dollar, out-of-state campaign donors.”

“There’s no telling what kind of dishonest tactics Doug Jones, Chuck Schumer, Kamala Harris and the other Senate liberals will use against a woman who is imminently qualified to sit on our nation’s highest court,” Tuberville warned. “So I’ll close by asking you to join me in praying for Judge Barrett and her family as she faces what promises to be a tough and partisan confirmation hearing. With your prayers and support, America will soon have a strongly conservative Supreme Court, and Alabama will have a new senator who actually represents the citizens of this great state. May God bless Judge Barrett. May God bless President Donald Trump. And may God continue to bless the greatest nation mankind has ever known.”

Congressional candidate Barry Moore:

“I applaud the President for making this nomination now, as the Constitution mandates,” said Congressional candidate Barry Moore. “I’m confident that the Senate will also take up Judge Barrett’s nomination in a timely fashion and not delay the process until after the election. The Constitution doesn’t state anything about waiting until after an election to fill Supreme Court vacancies, despite what the Democrats want us to think.”

“I’m pleased that President Trump has chosen a strong pro-life woman for the Supreme Court,” Moore continued. “I’m also impressed by Judge Barrett’s credentials and experience. I am certain she’ll make an exceptional addition to the Supreme Court, and will serve us well for many years to come.”

“We, as a nation, must act now by praying for President Trump, Judge Barrett and their families,” Moore concluded. “They need to have a shield of favor and protection prayed over them. I truly believe we are in a spiritual battle for our nation and the Democrats will stop at nothing to destroy the character of Judge Barrett, as they’ve done for the last 4 years with President Trump.”

Alabama House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter

“I join the members of the Alabama House Republican Caucus in praising President Trump’s decision to nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Alabama House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville.

“Judge Barrett clerked for one of the court’s greatest conservative jurists, Judge Antonin Scalia, and she understands that her job is to interpret the Constitution as the founding fathers wrote it, not to invent new law out of thin air,” Ledbetter said. “The suit against Alabama’s strongest-in-the-nation pro-life law is currently working its way through the federal courts, and it could be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in the near future. Having a conservative majority on the nation’s highest court will be essential to the Alabama Legislature’s efforts to protect unborn life from harm. We encourage the Senate to hold confirmation hearings as soon as possible and to hold an up-or-down vote on Judge Barrett’s nomination immediately after they conclude.”

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National

23rd Alabama inmate dies with COVID-19

There have been 409 total positive COVID-19 cases among inmates and 392 total among employees as of Sept. 26.

John H. Glenn

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The Alabama Department of Corrections on Friday reported the 23rd COVID-19 death among inmates in the state’s prisons.

Christopher Nalls, a 59-year-old inmate serving a 15-year sentence, died Sept. 10 at a local hospital in Hamilton, Alabama.

Nalls was moved to the local hospital on Aug. 31 to receive treatment for pre-existing health conditions unrelated to COVID-19.

His admission test upon entering the hospital was negative, and after treatment, Nalls was discharged Sept. 4.

Upon return, Nalls’s condition worsened, and he was readmitted Sept. 10. He died later that same day. A postmortem COVID-19 test showed Nalls died with COVID-19.

ADOC did not report any other positive COVID-19 cases among inmates in correctional facilities. But in the same report Friday, ADOC reported six new positive cases among staff, bringing the staff total to 28 active cases.

ADOC’s Office of Health Services initiated investigations into possible prolonged exposures between positive staff members and inmates or employees.

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There have been 409 total positive COVID-19 cases among inmates and 392 total among employees as of Sept. 26.

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