Doctor faces 2nd trial on Medicaid fraud charges
TUSCALOOSA (AP) — A doctor goes on trial again Thursday on Medicaid fraud charges in a case that raised early questions about ethics in the administration of former Gov. Don Siegelman, who has since been convicted and imprisoned on unrelated charges.
A federal jury convicted Dr. Phillip Bobo in 2001 of rigging bids on state Medicaid contracts to provide medical care for poor pregnant women in West Alabama during Siegelman’s administration. The case preceded the probe that resulted in charges against Siegelman and former HealthSouth Corp. CEO Richard Scrushy.
Just as during the first trial, federal prosecutors claim Bobo conspired to obtain $550,000 in state funds to pay off a competitor for Medicaid contracts in 1999. The competitor went to authorities. Bobo argues he did nothing wrong and has accused prosecutors to trying to make normal business negotiations seem criminal.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Bobo’s original conviction because of a faulty indictment, but he was indicted again in 2004 with Siegelman and another aide on charges of conspiracy, health care fraud and theft from a federally funded program.
Prosecutors dropped charges against Siegelman and the aide, Paul Hamrick, after U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon gutted much of the government’s evidence, and the case against Bobo was put on hold.
as the defense tried to get the new charges dismissed.
The Tuscaloosa physician’s second trial on charges of fraud, witness tampering and lying to federal agents is set to begin in Tuscaloosa before U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Blackburn. She was assigned to the case after the 11th Circuit removed Clemon, whom prosecutors accused of being biased against the government.
The Bobo case focused the attention of prosecutors on the Alabama Fire College, where prosecutors said Siegelman had money placed for the doctor’s use in paying bribes. The subsequent investigation has resulted in convictions and resignations within the state’s two-year colleges, which included the firefighter school.
Separately, Siegelman and Scrushy were convicted in a bribery conspiracy last year. Both are in federal prison.
Information from: The Birmingham News
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