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Bobo denies doing anything illegal to get Medicaid contract

TUSCALOOSA (AP) — Dr. Phillip Bobo told federal court jurors that he was involved in business negotiations and did nothing wrong when he spoke with executives from a rival group seeking Medicaid contracts to provide maternity care to low-income pregnant women.

Bobo, a prominent Tuscaloosa physician whose testimony capped the defense's case, is on trial on charges of health care fraud, wire fraud, witness tampering and making false statements to the FBI and to the court.

Prosecutors argue Bobo attempted to use his influence in former Gov. Don Siegelman's administration to make it easier to win the Medicaid contracts and to bribe competitors with $800,000, including $550,000 in bogus Alabama Fire College contracts.

But Bobo testified Tuesday that the deals he offered to two people who worked with his competition were meant as offers to bring them into his business.

"They would be providers in our network," Bobo said.

The defense rested its case later Tuesday and the jury could begin deliberations after hearing closing arguments Wednesday.

Dismissal motion

U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn told defense lawyers she is reviewing their motion to dismiss the health care fraud and wire fraud charges against Bobo, although she said she likely will not grant their motion.

In his testimony, Bobo denied all of the charges against him, saying he attempted to answer questions truthfully when investigators came to his home in 1999. He said the investigators wouldn't let him finish his answers.

He also said he tried to answer questions truthfully while testifying in 2001 during his first trial, when he was convicted and the verdict was overturned on appeal.

He said prosecutors are misrepresenting what he said during that trial.

Siegelman aide

Bobo said that Siegelman aide Nick Bailey, who made a special trip to Tuscaloosa on a charter plane with information on the Medicaid contract, didn't give him any specific information but said, "Everybody had bid too high."

He said he never told a Montgomery lobbyist to withhold information from investigators, part of the witness tampering charge. He said he recalled telling her not to volunteer information if she was not asked a specific question.

"That sounds like something my lawyer told me," he said.

Bobo's company, Neighborhood Health Services, was awarded the Medicaid maternity care contract on March 19, 1999.

But two months later, the state canceled the contract and wrote that another request for bids would be sent out later.

The defense contends there was no bid offer in place when he spoke with Dr. Marc Armstrong and John Maxwell, who were with Capstone Medical Center, a partner of Alabama Health Network, which had bid for the contract earlier.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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