National Roundup


Businessmen, hospital official sentenced to jail
MONROE, La. (AP) — A former Madison Parish Hospital administrator and two of its vendors have been sentenced for health care fraud.
U.S. Attorney Stephanie A. Finley said Tuesday that U.S. District Judge Robert G. James sentenced Charles W. Alford, 71, of Newellton, to 37 months in prison and ordered him to pay $1.3 million in restitution.
James also sentenced Barney W.I. Hughes IV, 45, of Keller, Texas, to a year in prison and ordered him to pay $566,874 restitution and Henry R. Ham, 65, of West Monroe, to 14 months in prison and $817,000 in restitution.
According to evidence presented at Monday’s guilty plea, Alford was hospital administrator for Madison Parish Hospital in Tallulah; Hughes served as owner of Tech Solutions of Keller, Texas; and Ham, was owner of Insurance World in Monroe.
Both Hughes and Ham paid Alford a combined total of more than $1.3 million in kickbacks for his approval and continuation of their business agreements.
Madison Parish Hospital leased equipment and personnel from Tech Solutions to operate the hospital’s nuclear medicine and ultrasound departments.
At no time did Alford or Hughes disclose to the hospital’s board or Medicare that they had an exclusive agreement. From October 2006 to June 2012, the hospital paid Hughes’ company $2,029,504, and Hughes paid Alford $566,874 of that total. They submitted fraudulent cost reports to Medicare at least six times from December 2006 to 2011.
Madison Parish Hospital purchased a majority of its health insurance and life insurance products from Ham. Alford and Ham negotiated and set the insurance policy rates and Alford approved Ham’s billings as well as the hospital’s payments to Ham.
From 2007 through April 2012, the hospital paid Ham $4,979,487, and Ham paid Alford $817,000 of that total. They submitted fraudulent cost reports to Medicare at least five times from December 2007 to 2011.
Ex-conductor su­es railroad over harassment 
CHICAGO (AP) — A former railroad conductor is alleging in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday that a racially hostile environment existed at the Illinois Central Railroad that culminated in a physical assault.
In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, Solomon Perry says he endured racial slurs transmitted on railroad radios and in graffiti left throughout his workplace at the IC’s yard in the suburb of Markham. It also alleges that a co-worker attacked Perry in November 2012 by holding him down in a break room and cutting off his dreadlocks.
“I was victimized, I was assaulted and harassed,” Perry said during a news conference. “This was a hate crime. I was targeted!”
Perry said railroad officials never took his complaints seriously.
“They called all of these events horseplay, and they advised me to come back to work, get over it, and move on,” he said.
However, Illinois Central spokesman Patrick Waldron said the company took disciplinary action against employees involved in the incidents.
“We do not and did not tolerate that type of behavior,” Waldron said in a statement. “Illinois Central responded immediately and appropriately that night. The company then conducted a full investigation, after which, the company took appropriate disciplinary action against employees involved in the incident, including the termination of one of those employees.”
Railroad officials didn’t comment on the lawsuit.
The man who cut Perry’s hair, Louis Busch, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery and was sentenced to 18 months of court supervision. It was an outcome that left Cook County Circuit Judge Allen Murphy unhappy, WMAQ-TV reported.
“I was absolutely shocked by those facts, and I really am very troubled as to why this case wasn’t even investigated as a hate crime,” he said during the sentencing hearing. “This case just got swept under the rug and sent off to the misdemeanor courthouse.”
In filing the lawsuit against Illinois Central, a subsidiary of Canadian National Railway, attorney Lisa Banks called what Perry endured an egregious case of race discrimination.
“It seems outrageous that in 2014 we’re still dealing with this kind of workplace, with this kind of discrimination, with this kind of harassment,” she said.
Testimony: Nagin pressured Home Depot for deal 
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Prosecutors in the federal corruption trial of former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin presented the jury on Tuesday with testimony and email evidence that Nagin pressured a national retail giant to do business with his family.
Ken Knutson, a lobbyist with The Home Depot, described Nagin, as well as community groups making demands on the retailer, as “shakedown artists” in testimony that centered on contracts the retailer granted to the ex-mayor’s granite business.
Testimony and email evidence indicated Home Depot officials were wary of dealing with Nagin as they sought to build a new store in New Orleans. But Home Depot granted contracts to the business owned by Nagin and his sons.
Prosecutors say Nagin, as he sought contracts from the retailer, worked to curtail a community group’s efforts to get an agreement with Home Depot to provide area residents jobs with health benefits and jobs at above market-rate wages. That agreement was never reached.
Home Depot has not been charged with wrongdoing in the case.
Earlier Tuesday, a city financial official told jurors that a movie theater built in the eastern part of New Orleans paid the city back only a fraction of a $5 million loan that was used to develop it.
New Orleans Deputy Director of Finance Derrick Muse outlined more than $35,000 in penalties that Nagin waived for the theater business’s overdue taxes.
On Monday, prosecution witnesses testified that an owner of the theater paid for a trip Nagin’s family made to New York.
Nagin’s indictment alleges he accepted $23,500 worth of airfare and limousine services as a reward for the penalty waiver and overdue loan payments. That allegation is part of a 21-count indictment against Nagin, a Democrat, who served as mayor from 2002 to 2010.
Prosecutors began presenting their case Thursday, calling former city contractors and other witnesses and producing numerous emails and documents aimed at proving the former mayor received money, free vacation travel and free granite for his family business— bribes worth more than $500,000 — for helping contractors receive millions of dollars’ worth of city work.
Nagin also is accused of money laundering and filing false tax returns.


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