Vestavia Hills-Republican, longtime State Rep. Jack Williams, former Alabama Republican Party Chairman Martin “Marty” Connors, along with a California-based health care executive G. Ford Gilbert were arrested Monday on federal bribery charges.
“Three individuals — two of whom reside in Alabama and one who resides in California — were arrested on charges stemming from their involvement in a public corruption scheme,” said United States Attorney Louis V. Franklin, Sr. in a press release.
According to the indictment, Defendant Gilbert is the owner of a California company that operates diabetes treatment centers throughout the world—Trina Health, LLC (Trina Health). In 2014 and 2015, Trina Health opened three clinics in Alabama. Soon thereafter, the state’s largest health insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama (a.k.a. Blue Cross), informed Trina Health that it would not cover the treatments provided by them. Gilbert then schemed to force Blue Cross to change its position.
He came up with a plan to push a bill through the Alabama Legislature’s 2016 session that would require Blue Cross to cover the treatments. Gilbert then made payments to State of Alabama House Majority Leader Micky Hammon in exchange for his efforts on behalf of the bill. Gilbert also hired Defendant Connors to act as a lobbyist on behalf of the bill. Connors knew of Gilbert’s payments to Majority Leader Hammon.
Hammon and Connors then recruited Defendant Williams, the chairman of the Commerce and Small Business Committee of the Alabama House of Representatives, to hold a public hearing on the bill. Williams also knew of the payments to Hammon and acted in part to help Hammon, who, as everyone in the scheme knew, was experiencing grave financial problems.
“Based on these events, the indictment charges all three defendants with conspiracy to commit bribery related to federal programs, conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, and honest services wire fraud,” wrote Franklin. “Additionally, the indictment alleges that Gilbert and Connors committed the substantive offense of bribery related to federal programs. Gilbert alone is charged with wire fraud, health care fraud, and interstate travel in aid of racketeering.”
The indictment does not include charges against Hammon since he has already been convicted in federal court of other offenses related to mail fraud and misusing campaign funds.
If convicted, the men face up to 20 years in prison.
Gov. Kay Ivey weighed in on the indictment Monday afternoon following a speech in Huntsville, Ala.
“There’s just no place for corruption in our great state. And so the Justice Department, the FBI, they’ve just got to go ahead and ferret out what needs to be explored because we cannot tolerate corruption,” Ivey told AL.com.
“I just pointed out (during her speech in Huntsville) that the people of Alabama, the morale was very low because they had been misled by their leader and lost faith in the government. So I’ve tried my best to restore faith and trust in the government and operate an open, transparent administration.”
The United States Postal Inspection Service investigated the case with the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Jonathan S. Ross and Joshua Wendell are prosecuting the case.
This is a developing story and will continue to be added to.