BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The man who once led HealthSouth, a huge provider of outpatient rehab services, has been ordered to turn over records related to a bank account that lawyers say he’s using to hide millions.
In a seven-page order against Richard Scrushy, the Birmingham-based company’s former chief executive officer, John England Jr., acting as special master in the case, also issued an injunction against any money being transferred out of the account in question, AL.com reported.
The ruling Tuesday came after lawyers representing the plaintiffs in a 2009 civil verdict contended that Scrushy has been hiding money that could be used to pay some of the more than $2.87 billion in damages he still owes as result of the HealthSouth scandal. The government contends Scrushy and other executives inflated earnings by $2.7 billion from 1996 through March 2003 to make it appear HealthSouth was meeting expectations of Wall Street analysts.
Lawyers alleged Scrushy has written checks totaling $7.3 million on an account in the name of convicted felon Eddie Briskett, who is currently serving time in the Alabama Department of Corrections for various convictions, including property theft, burglary and assault.
England contends Scrushy, or someone connected to him, has control of the account and has actively used it. Scrushy denies any wrongdoing and said he welcomes any disclosures, since “they will find nothing,” the news site reported.
“It’s totally made-up, false information that never should have been put out,” Scrushy said.
In 2007, Scrushy was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison for bribery involving former Gov. Don Siegelman. While serving his sentence in a Texas prison, a civil court found him liable for the HealthSouth accounting fraud.
After serving about five years of his sentence, Scrushy was released from prison.
According to England’s order, Scrushy contends he is unemployed and has no assets other than Social Security. Lawyers for the plaintiffs say he is conducting business through other entities owned by friends and family.
According to the ruling, Scrushy has “exchanged thousands of text messages” with a number associated with Briskett and written checks totaling $7.3 million on the account, including two checks to himself totaling $3 million.
However, those checks were never deposited in any account previously disclosed by Scrushy, the order states.
In addition, England references a 2020 letter to the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles by an associate of Scrushy, explaining that Briskett has an investment portfolio of about $7.1 million.
“The evidence presented suggests that Mr. Scrushy may have an interest in the account or in some or all of the proceeds of the account,” the order reads. “At minimum, it appears that Mr. Scrushy or someone acting in concert with him opened the account in Briskett’s name and that Mr. Scrushy has control of the account.”
Scrushy told the news site that he has known Briskett for 20 years through his prison ministry and has exchanged text messages with Briskett’s sister, mainly to set up telephone conversations.
The checks, he said, were “kind of a joke” between the two of them.
“He’s one of the gentlemen that I’ve helping, being a friend and minister,” he said. “I’ve never signed on any bank account of his. There’s zero truth to any of that. I’ve never been involved with Eddie Briskett on any account, period. I’ve never taken a dime from Eddie Briskett.”
Scrushy said the court filings in the case are a continued harassment to him and his family.
“I’ve never seen such abuse and waste in my life,” he said. “I told the judge yesterday to let those attorneys go and discover anything they want. There is nothing to it.”