Friday, November 13, 2015

Ben Carson invests with doctor convicted of health care fraud

Carson has made an amazing number of verifiably false statements and crazy pronouncements. But here is a matter on which he is accurate and stands firm: his investments with a close friend who has plead guilty to insurance fraud.

ABC news is one of dozens of outlets that carried the story today (inc. the Daily Star). Following are essential snippets.

Ben Carson has called for harsh criminal penalties for health care fraud, but the Republican presidential candidate and his wife also have kept millions invested with a close friend who admitted defrauding insurance companies, according to an Associated Press review.

Pittsburgh dentist Alfonso A. Costa pleaded guilty to a felony count of health care fraud after an FBI probe into his oral surgery practice found he had charged for procedures he never performed, according to court records.

Though the crime carries a potential sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison, Costa was sentenced to house arrest and probation after Carson helped petition a federal judge on behalf of the man he described as "one my closest, if not my very closest friend."

Why does Carson maintain his relationship with Costa?

Investments that Carson and his wife made through Costa earn the couple between $200,000 and $2 million a year, according to financial records Carson has filed.

What else glues these guys together? Try the "same values and principles."

Carson was one of three people who also testified at Costa's 2008 sentencing hearing, stressing his friend's charitable work. He said they shared the "same values and principles" and their families vacationed together.

Prosecutors urged the judge to make an example of Costa, arguing that reducing his sentence would "create the appearance that a defendant's financial resources and prominent connections can skew the justice system in ways not available to persons of lesser means."

Costa got no prison time. He was sentenced to one year of house arrest and ordered to pay more than $294,000 in fines and restitution.

So the bottom line is this: Carson helped a crook get a light sentence and continues to invest with said crook.

But he has spun a different narrative. He's good at that.

While not mentioning Costa by name, in his book Carson recounts an anecdote of a successful oral surgeon and real estate developer who was persecuted by the government.

"My friend owns a spectacular home, a Manhattan penthouse, two Ferraris and a European villa," Carson wrote. "I believe the lead agent was either jealous of his success or incorrectly concluded that he had organized crime connections that produced his wealth."

In Carson's telling, there was no hard evidence but his friend pleaded guilty to avoid a trial and "put his family through so much trauma."

The true test of friendship is what you are willing to do for your friends.

Costa continues to use his ties to Carson to promote his business. As of Thursday, the logo of the Carson Scholars Fund is featured prominently on the company's website, as is a personal testimonial from the presidential candidate.

Carson is listed among the celebrity guests who have stayed at Costa's villa on a cliff overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea.

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