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Alabama lawmaker indicted, charged with paying kickbacks

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama lawmaker was arrested Thursday on federal charges that he paid kickbacks to a doctor’s office that referred Medicare patients to his health care business — accusations the legislator strongly denied.

State Rep. Ed Henry, a Republican from Hartselle, was charged with six counts of paying illegal kickbacks, five counts of health care fraud, and other crimes when a federal grand jury indicted him May 31. The charges were unsealed Thursday by a U.S. District Court judge in Montgomery.

Henry, 47, has served in the Alabama House since 2010 and his 9th District seat includes Cullman, Marshall and Morgan counties. He announced in early 2017 that he would not seek re-election this year.

The charges against Henry involve a company called MyPractice24, news outlets reported Thursday. Henry was an owner of the company from 2015 through 2017, and served as its chief executive for a portion of that time.

U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin Sr. said in a news release that Henry paid kickbacks to a Montgomery physician’s office that referred patients to Henry’s company for chronic care management. Prosecutors say the doctor’s office would then share Medicare reimbursements for those patients’ care with Henry’s company.

Henry pleaded not guilty during an arraignment hearing Thursday. He said on his Facebook page: “Today began my fight with the Federal Government for my freedom.”

Henry’s attorney, Max Pulliam, told The Associated Press that Henry’s company provided legitimate services that improved patients’ health “and he actually saved the taxpayers money.”

“Ed Henry is guilty of no crimes,” Pulliam said. He added: “He has paid no kickbacks to any person.”

The indictment says the kickback scheme was part of an agreement Henry entered into in 2016 with Dr. Gilberto Sanchez, who has pleaded guilty to drug distribution, health care fraud, and money laundering charges.

Prosecutors said the kickbacks included direct payments to a member of the doctor’s staff, free chronic care management services, free medical billing services and other free clinical services.

Henry is also accused of assisting Sanchez in paying kickbacks to patients who enrolled in the chronic care management program. Prosecutors say Sanchez paid the kickbacks by systematically waiving copays that Medicare required the doctor to collect.

Henry denied any wrongdoing. He said in his Facebook post: “My goal was to help patients, and I did.”

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